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What’s next for the Rays?

Three things to expect this month now that the Winter Meetings are over.

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Boston Red Sox Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

This year’s Winter Meetings didn’t feature a ton of splashes, as was expected as the market waited for the big three dominos to fall: Juan Soto (Yankees), Shohei Ohtani (Dodgers), and Yoshinobu Yamamoto (TBD — and expected to sign the second largest pitching contract in MLB history).

But regardless of Yamamoto’s new home, the Rays should be in position to begin making moves. Here’s three things to expect from the Rays this month:

1. (Finally) Trade Tyler Glasnow

Now that the groundwork has been laid during the Winter Meetings, the Rays should be in position to move Tyler Glasnow, with much of the speculation pointing to the Dodgers, who will need a pitcher to fill Ohtani’s role for 2024 as he recovers from an elbow injury as their DH. Marc Topkin said as much in his always well-informed Sunday column notes:

The Dodgers sure seem like the right match for a Tyler Glasnow trade, and the close relationship between the front offices should facilitate that.

The Dodgers boast a lot of talent in the minor league system — a factor that reportedly played a role in Ohtani choosing them for his next club (as if he was ever going anywhere else) — particularly at positions which should interest the Rays: pitching and catching.

Among those prospects, a swap of Tyler Glasnow for C Diego Cartaya would objectively check all the boxes for both clubs. Cartaya is 22-years young and reached Double-A for the first time last season, where the breaking balls tested his 50-grade hit tool (but not his 70-grade power), as noted by Baseball America’s recent write-up:

A large, physical masher at 6-foot-3, 219 pounds, Cartaya has grown into plus-plus power and has become one baseball’s most promising young power hitters. He demolishes baseballs from left-center to right-center field with a fast, powerful swing and drives balls over the wall even when he mishits them. He crushes both high-end velocity and good breaking stuff and has a knack for playing up to his competition, including when he homered off Padres lefthander Blake Snell during a rehab start last May.

Despite the positive report, and falling down the Top-10 list for the Dodgers this year, he’s a major league catching prospect that should meet the Rays long-term needs, as Rene Pinto and recently designated Alex Jackson are projected as the Rays catching battery for 2024.

2. Figure out the Catcher situation

Speaking of catchers, Topkin also notes the Rays could also show interest in picking up recently flipped backstops off the trade market:

Two recently traded catchers who the Rays could have interest in trying to acquire: Kyle Higashioka (now with Padres) and Max Stassi...

It’s not uncommon to see catchers move around the board in the off-season (Rays primary catcher Christian Bethancourt has already gone from Tampa Bay to Cleveland to Miami in the last month).

Among the two, 33-year old Higashioka has experience in the AL East having spent time with the Yankees in each of the last seven years, with the last three as their primary catcher, and is projected to a $2.3 million salary in his final year of salary arbitration (a third of what Stassi is owed in 2024).

Of note, prior to the deal the Padres back up catcher was... former Rays prospect Brett Sullivan, who made his major league debut last year at age-29. He departed the Rays system and actually signed a major league deal with Milwaukee in 2021, but never played at the major league level. He was flipped to San Diego for C Victor Caratini in 2022. Catchers move a lot!

3. Backfill Glasnow’s spot in the rotation

Although Shane Baz is on track to return to the Rays rotation this Spring, the other injured pitchers (McClanahan, Springs, Rasmussen) are not, which means the Rays will need a low-stakes starter filling in for Glasnow.

Here it’s possible the Rays turn to the free agent market, with some rumors internationally pointing to Japanese pitcher Naoyuki Uwasawa.

He is a serviceable option for the Rays, per our own Homin Lee:

But if not Uwasawa, this is the level at which I would think the Rays would be playing, a pitcher that would not prohibit Springs or Rasmussen from rejoining the Rays, should be ready to return to the rotation mid-year, but a veteran serviceable to the team’s needs if he’s part of the picture all season long.