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What would it take to land José Ramírez

If you have to ask, you can’t afford it

Boston Red Sox v Cleveland Indians Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

The hot stove is sizzling post-lockout, and rumors are flying all over. Among the mega names that have been bantered about as potential options for the Rays upgrades was that of Cleveland Guardians superstar José Ramírez.

This morning a rumor about the Blue Jays calling Cleveland to inquire on trade cost got me thinking: Rays have been linked to J-Ram before, they have a good trade relationship with the Guardians, so what would it take for the Rays to trade for José Ramírez and pair him up with Wander Franco on the left side of the infield?

A lot.

I want you to think about an extremely expensive deal, something that would be hard to stomach. And then I want you to double it.

José Ramírez is under contract for two more years (2022 and 2023) for a total of $26M. Ramírez has been worth over 6 fWAR three times (well, four, if you project out the 2020 shortened season where he had 3.5 fWAR in just 58 games). Of all the big fish on the free-agent and realistic trade market, there is probably no bigger bat than the player who also happens to be a hometown friend of Wander Franco.

Cleveland has been known to move on from their more expensive pieces before they leave for free. But with 2 years left, the Guardians are under no pressure to move now and certainly no pressure to move for less than an amazing haul.

To get a sense of where the Trade Sim is at, and for a mix of major league and minor league players, here’s what Jared Ward was able to whip up:

By the value it fits, however Clevelnd is almost certainly looking for bigger headliners and a splash that would justify trading the last star position player on the team.

Any ask Erik Neander or Peter Bendix make for José Ramírez is almost certainly going to be countered with the ask for Shane Baz or Luis Patiño to start. Cleveland is a pitching factory and often seem to be right there with the Rays in terms of pitching evaluation and development. Both Baz and Patiño are a huge headliner that could get Cleveland to pull the trigger on a deal.

Now, I’m not saying this is what I would want to see Neander or Bendix offer, nor will I say this is something I’d be comfortable accepting. However, here are three possible packages that the Cleveland Guardians could accept and would probably best most offers available to them for José Ramírez.

Trade 1 - The Leviathan

RHP Shane Baz + 2021 3rd round pick INF Ryan Spikes + OF/RHP Tanner Dodson

Woof, do I not see the Rays entertaining this. I’d imagine two deals that get done and probably get done in a hurry are if the Rays are willing to move Randy Arozarena straight up or Baz plus sweeteners.

I do not see any scenario where the Rays trade either, especially Baz. However if Chris Antonetti of the Guardians asked for this exact package I wouldn’t feel insulted. I would just have to be a firm pass.

Trade 2 - The Bounty

RHP Luis Patiño + 3B Curtis Mead + RHP Seth Johnson + 2B Vidal Bruján

An absolutely massive haul, but avoids touching any of the top 2 Rays starting pitchers (the Shanes) or any key major league position player, and manages to keep top minor league pitching prospect Taj Bradley.

Guardians could absolutely be tempted with this package of potential front-line starter as early as this year in Patiño, with a couple of top 10 in the org prospects in Brujan and Mead, plus fast riser in Seth Johnson. Would the Rays pull the trigger on this? I’m doubtful, but it’s certainly easier to stomach than Baz.

Trade 3 - Oops, All Prospects

RHP Taj Bradley + 2B Vidal Bruján + 3B Curtis Mead + SS Carlos Colmenarez + RHP Sandy Gaston

Another massive haul of prospects, but a good mix for Cleveland of near to the majors guys in Bruján and Mead, not far off with Bradley, and some very young guys far away with huge ceilings who Cleveland always seems to target in these major deals (Gaston and Colmenarez).

The factor that’s hard to see in all this is what Cleveland wants:

  • Would Cleveland want an Austin Meadows type which the Rays could absolutely afford moving (and save some prospect value)?
  • Are the Guardians building for a quick retool?
  • Are they competing now?

These answers would shape the types of deals they are looking for and how much major league talent or far away upside they need. The reality is, that all of these offers that feel like maybe even too much to give are maybe not even enough to convince the Guardians to make the move.

The Rays have the firepower to pull off a trade of such magnitude. José Ramírez is an amazing player who would be a tremendous boost in the two years he would be contracted to be here. The real question is: how much future are they willing to spend on the now?