Free agency is officially underway and this offseason will be one like no other in the sport’s history as teams will be slashing their payrolls and less inclined to give out large paydays to those players seeking large contracts this winter.
However, several of the game’s top players are available to sign and although the Rays usually wait until the barrel is empty to scrape the possible scrumptious treats from the bottom. Although, there are some top tier players that the team may target on the open market.
During his ranking of the top 60 free agents in the game right now, R.J. Anderson identified five players as possible fits on the Rays roster. They are listed below, and a choice quote from his analysis follows each player’s stats.
Nelson Cruz, DH
2020 Stats: .303/.397/.595 — 16 HR — 164 wRC+ — 2.0 fWAR — 53 games
There’s a natural tension between his age and his future prospects that’s likely to leave him undervalued. He still clobbers the ball; he still walks; and he still is a positive force in the clubhouse. The closest thing to an age-related sign of decay is either a slight uptick in whiffs or a drop in exit velocity that left him in, uh, the 87th percentile.
Two years ago, the Tampa Bay Rays were said to be heavily interested in the services of the veteran slugger but were significantly outbid by the Minnesota Twins who were rewarded with two phenomenal offensive campaigns from Cruz.
On the defensive side of things, Cruz offers nothing. His only purpose is to mash taters and with the benefit of the DH (possibly the universal DH), the 40 year old Cruz should receive the opportunity anywhere he desires.
Charlie Morton, RHP
2020 Stats: 2-2 — 4.74 ERA — 3.45 FIP — 24.7 K% — 5.9 BB% — 38 IP — 9 games/starts
Possible fits: Rays, local softball league
The veteran starting pitcher surprisingly had his option declined by the Rays at the end of October, ending what Morton claimed would be his last professional contract; however, it wasn’t due to poor performance, as Morton provided the Rays with exactly what they’d hope for and more.
Despite his performance, the Rays determined the 37 year old wasn’t a fit for the $15M option they had on him for the 2021 season. Morton showcased during the playoffs that he was still among the game’s best when he is on, so it seems likely that the Rays will try to negotiate a similar contract, perhaps with money deferred.
Trevor May, RHP
2020 Stats: 1-0 — 3.86 ERA — 3.62 FIP — 39.6 K% — 7.3 BB% — 23 1⁄3 IP — 24 games
[...] he’s continued to seek the ideal pitch mix. Last season, that meant shelving his curveball and throwing more than 80 percent fastballs and sliders. It’s an effective combination for missing bats; he’s still home-run prone
Over the past few years, May has been among the better relievers in all of baseball. His 33.5 K% over the past three years ranks 13 among qualifying relievers; May also ranks 13th over that same time frame in opponent batting average (.190). An effective two pitch pitcher, May would be a solid addition to Kevin Cash’s stable.
Ken Giles, RHP
2020 Stats: 0-0 — 9.82 ERA — 10.28 FIP — 31.6 K% — 21.1 BB% — 3 2⁄3 IP — 4 games
You can bet on some team signing Giles to a one-plus-one deal this winter with the hope that he’ll rest and rehab for a year before returning in 2022 as a hard-throwing, if at times frustrating late-inning option.
The 2020 season was one to forget for Giles, however, the veteran reliever was among the best pitchers in baseball during the 2019 season and has a past of excellent performances with a touch of face punching involved as well. Giles underwent Tommy John surgery in October, meaning that he’ll miss the entire 2021 season and at least some of the 2022 season so any team signing Giles would be looking toward the future.
Yusmeiro Petit, RHP
2020 Stats: 2-1 — 1.66 ERA — 4.11 FIP — 19.3 K% — 5.7 BB% — 21 2⁄3 IP — 26 games
Petit might be the closest thing baseball has to a “utility pitcher,” or someone who has filled every capacity one can fill shy of closing.
As close to a swiss army knife that a pitcher could possibly be, Petit is the perfect addition to the Rays. Petit can serve as a multi-inning reliever capable of getting both lefties and righties out and coming into a came in any leverage situation. Petit will also be 36 during the 2021 season, so team are less likely to him a high dollar multi-year contract.