The Tampa Bay Rays remain in playoff position, despite a franchise-matching single-game 17 players on the injured list. That number, of course, does not include players now recovered from injury, like the team’s top hitter Brandon Lowe, who is working with doctors to stave off stress fractures in his back.
Overall, it’s a precarious position for the Rays to be in, but with strong a performance early in the season the odds are in the team’s favor to make the postseason:
The Rays are unlikely to look at 60-65% playoff odds and go-for-broke on a headlining trade like Juan Soto. A similar deal to last year’s Nelson Cruz trade might be Cubs star C/DH Wilson Contreras — who we wrote up in the reaction to Francisco Mejia’s recent shoulder injury; however, winning a bidding war is also unlikely given the Rays trade candidates.
There are a couple reasons why the Rays will be active in trade talks, but the biggest one is space on the 40-man roster.
Eric Longenhagen has been publishing every team’s upcoming Roster Crunch situation, highlighting which players — injured or not — that will need to be added to a 40-man roster this upcoming off-season to be protected from the Rule 5 draft next year. Prospects on the bubble are logical trade candidates for the Rays at the deadline.
Here is Longenhagen’s assessment, courtesy of FanGraphs:
Current 40-man Count: 51 (11 (!) on 60-day IL)
Pending Free Agents: 4 (Matt Wisler, Corey Kluber, Mike Zunino, $13 million Kevin Kiermaier club option)
Must-Add Prospects: Curtis Mead, Taj Bradley, Greg Jones, Jayden Murray, Colby White (TJ), Xavier Edwards, Heriberto Hernandez, Seth Johnson (TJ)*
Current 40-man Fringe: Luke Raley, Luke Bard, Ralph Garza Jr., Roman Quinn, Yu Chang, Shawn Armstrong, Angel Perdomo, Brendan McKay, JT Chargois, Brett Phillips, Tommy Romero, Harold Ramírez
Prospects on the Fringe: Kameron Misner, John Doxakis, Osleivis Basabe, Miles Mastrobuoni, Brett Wisely, Michael Mercado, Justin Sterner, Evan McKendry, Blake Hunt, Diego Infante, Chris Muller, Ronny Simon, Joe LaSorsa
*We added Johnson to the list, he was not featured on Longenhagen’s original list
Simply put, this is too many players! It should be obvious that the Rays have some consolidation to do.
We have no complaints with the Must-Add Prospects portion of this list — these are all players that cannot be exposed to the Rule 5 draft. That also means all of these players should have significant value when it comes to trade talks, although not all of them are equally likely to be traded.
Some players the Rays might value more than the market due to internal evaluations the outside doesn’t see — like Jones, a top-100 prospect batting below average with a 90 wRC+ this season. The Rays have more insight into his ongoing developmental process and can more accurately understand the projection for a plus-plus athlete like Jones. Others might have higher internal value due to the expectations for recovery from injury — like White, a potentially elite reliever recovering from Tommy John surgery.
It would also seem unlikely the Rays would trade top-end prospects (e.g. Bradley, Mead) due to the team’s constant need to replenish the roster as the more established, star players are not re-signed or traded away (e.g. Morton, Wendle).
As for the players designated as Current 40-man Fringe, this is a good place to look for trade candidates. The list is either made up of players who could be cut to make room for an Injured List player like White in the offseason (when the IL doesn’t exist) with hopes of retaining the cut player on a minor league deal (like Chris Mazza in 2021), or players who the Rays probably value too high to simply cut (Phillips, Ramirez, Chargois).
And finally there is the Prospects on the Fringe section of the list, who are all reasonable trade candidates. The Rays have a penchant for deadline moves, even prospect-for-prospect trades that help reset 40-man timelines within the system, so it’s worth having a robust list of candidates to consider.
OFF the Trade Block
Unlikely Trade Candidates due to Value to the Rays
Before we get to the trade candidates within the Rays system, I feel it’s important to eliminate a few names outright due to these players disparate value within the organization when compared to their likely market value, either due to injury (trading now would weaken the return) or perception (the player has more value to the Rays than an acquiring team would consider that player having).
Put another way, these ten players are my “untouchables” not named Wander Franco.
- Shane Baz, RHP (MLB; Injury - elbow sprain)
- Taj Bradley, RHP (AAA)
- Calvin Faucher, RHP (MLB)
- Seth Johnson, RHP (A+; Injury - TJ)
- Greg Jones, SS (AA)
- Curtis Mead, 3B (AAA)
- Isaac Paredes, INF (MLB)
- Harold Ramirez, OF/DH (MLB; Injury - thumb)
- Taylor Walls, SS (MLB)
- Colby White, RHP (AAA; Injury - TJ)
ON the Trade Block
Likely Trade Candidates
That brings us to the more likely trade candidates. I have put together a list of 25 players I think are more likely to be considered as trade candidates by the front office should an in-season upgrade be available at a position of need. The list is, like the list above, subjective, and the most controversial placement here is probably Luis Patiño. I’ll be interested to read your comments should you disagree on any of the players listed!
The Tier 1 candidates are recent MLB promotions or near-ready prospects that could contribute to an acquiring team immediately. Tier 2 are prospects that are in consideration for a 40-man position roster spot due to strong performance in the minors.
Additionally, I’ve collected 20 more players in a Tier 3 of prospects that could be worthy of a 40-man roster spot but are currently underperforming that fringe level at this time. You never know if their inclusion could be the thing that pushes a trade with a team that believes in them over the finish line.
Tier 1 - 10 players
- Jonathan Aranda (MLB)
- Vidal Bruján, 2B (MLB)
- Xavier Edwards, 2B (AAA)
- Heriberto Hernandez, OF (A+)
- Josh Lowe, OF (MLB)
- Jayden Murray, RHSP (AAA)
- Luis Patiño, RHP (MLB)
- Ford Proctor, C (MLB)
- Tommy Romero, RHSP (MLB)
- Phoenix Sanders, RHRP (MLB)
Among the Tier 1 names, some are top-100 worthy prospects like Bruján, Edwards, and Lowe. I find myself surprised to include the likes of Aranda and Patiño, but each player’s ability to contribute now or in the near future on a team looking to cement future players in exchange for a veteran make them enticing for the trade block.
Tier 2 - 15 players
- Osleivis Basabe, INF (AA)
- Ben Brecht, LHSP (A+)
- John Doxakis, LHP (AA)
- Blake Hunt, C (AA)
- Diego Infante, OF (AA)
- Joe LaSorsa, LHRP (AA)
- Miles Mastrobuoni, UTIL (AAA)
- Evan McKendry, RHP (AA)
- Michael Mercado, RHP (AA)
- Patrick Merino, OF (A)
- Kameron Misner, OF (AA)
- Chris Muller, RHRP (AAA)
- Ronny Simon, 2B (AA)
- Justin Sterner, RHRP (AAA)
- Brett Wisely, 2B (AA)
There are some dark horse favorites among Rays fans on this list in Tier 2, like Hunt (who can frame but may not hit enough) or Doxakis (who was popular when drafted). The one on this list that might hurt me the most is Basabe.
Tier 3 - 20 players
- Ryan Boldt, OF (AAA)
- Trevor Brigden, RHRP (AAA)
- Ruben Cardenas, OF (AAA)
- Linse Carvajal, RHP (CPX)
- Estanli Castillo, OF (CPX)
- Logan Driscoll, C/OF (A+)
- Carlos Garcia, RHRP (AAA)
- Niko Hulsizer, OF (AA)
- Antonio Jimenez, LHSP (A)
- Pedro Martinez, INF (A+)
- Easton McGee, RHSP (AAA)
- Brendan McKay, LHP (MLB; Injury - TOS)
- Alexander Ovalles, UTIL (AA)
- Joel Peguero, RHRP (AAA)
- Jordan Qsar, OF (AA)
- David Rodriguez, C (AAA)
- Nick Schnell, OF (A)
- Austin Shenton, INF (AA)
- Graeme Stinson, LHSP (A+)
- Grant Witherspoon, OF (AAA)
Looking at Tier 3, one thought shines through the most: Prospects will break your heart, and many on this list might have already broken yours. They just might break another team’s as well sometime soon.
So what are we to make of these lists? I wouldn’t expect these candidates to land Juan Soto, and it seems unlikely the Rays would be high bidders for the services of Wilson Contreras; however, now is the time for the Rays to identify consolidation opportunities in prospect-for-prospect deals or veteran acquisitions at catcher, right field, or starting pitcher to help sure up this better-than-coin-flip contender.