Tampa Bay Rays Rumors

Tampa Bay Rays trade and free agent rumors from MLBTradeRumors.com.

Minor Moves: Satin, Kensing, Romak, Orioles, Billings, Avery

Here are today’s minor moves from around the league…

Earlier Updates

  • The D’Backs have agreed to terms on a minor league deal and a Spring Training invite with infielder/outfielder Jamie Romak, MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes tweeted today. The 29-year-old Romak, a client of Taurus Sports’ David Sloane, made his big league debut with the Dodgers in 2014 and collected his first hit in the Majors. The former fourth-rounder is a lifetime .258/.324/.474 hitter at Triple-A.
  • The Orioles announced the signings of infielder Paul Janish, right-hander Terry Doyle and outfielder Quincy Latimore to minor league contracts and invitations to big league Spring Training. SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo was the first to tweet Janish’s agreement, and Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com had previously reported that the team was working on a deal with him. Janish is the only one of the bunch that comes with MLB experience; the 32-year-old defensive specialist is a career .214/.284/.288 hitter in 1206 plate appearances between the Reds and Braves.
  • The Nationals announced that they have signed right-hander Bruce Billings to a minor league contract with an invite to Major League Spring Training. The 29-year-old Billings pitched four innings for the Yankees last season and split the season between the Yankees and Dodgers organizations. Overall, the veteran posted a 5.27 ERA with 6. K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in 95 2/3 innings.
  • Outfielder Xavier Avery has inked a minor league deal with the Tigers and will receive a Spring Training invite as well, tweets SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo. The 24-year-old Avery spent last season with the Mariners after being acquired from the Orioles in the 2013 Mike Morse trade. Avery hit .275/.344/.413 with 10 homers and 31 steals, appearing at all three outfield spots for Seattle’s Triple-A affiliate in 2014.

Rays Managerial Finalists Are Wakamatsu, Cash, Ibanez

The Rays have whittled their list of managerial candidates down to three and will select either Royals bench coach Don Wakamatsu, Indians bullpen coach Kevin Cash or Raul Ibanez to serve as their next skipper, according to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times (on Twitter). Earlier today, the New York Post’s Joel Sherman reported that the Rays would narrow the field to three candidates at some point today.

Wakamatsu has served as a big league manager before, managing the Mariners from 2009-10. He’s oft-cited as a candidate to receive another crack at managing a team and has drawn interest from multiple clubs in managerial searches since his dismissal from Seattle.

Cash, 37 in December, had an eight-year career as a catcher with the Red Sox, Blue Jays, Yankees, Astros and Rays. He was under strong consideration in the recent managerial searches for the Rangers and Astros as well.

Ibanez, 42, was a surprise entrant on the Rays’ initial list of 10, considering the fact that he was active on a Major League roster through season’s end. The 19-year veteran is a career .272/.335/.465 hitter with 305 homers and is known to be a positive influence in the clubhouse. Though his playing career continued through 2014, he’s only nine years younger than Wakamatsu and is actually nearly six years older than Cash.

That these are the finalists means the Rays had to make the tough decision not to advance bench coach Dave Martinez, their top internal candidate, into the final round. Martinez has long drawn praise around the game and interviewed for several other managerial positions but come up short each time. In a press release confirming the finalists, president of baseball operations Matt Silverman made the following statement: “The decision on Dave Martinez was especially difficult. He’s played a key role in our organization’s evolution, and he’s done all he can to put himself in position to be a manager. In the end, we determined that our clubhouse would best benefit from a new voice that will add to our already strong and cohesive culture.”

Topkin tweets that each of the finalists will be brought in for an interview the week of Dec. 1, so there will be no manager in place by Thanksgiving, but that should give the team time to make a decision prior to the Winter Meetings, which run from Dec. 7-11 in San Diego this year.

Quick Hits: Saberhagen, Kubel, Transactions, Front Offices

Two-time Cy Young winner Bret Saberhagen is looking to get back into Major League Baseball as either a pitching coach or bullpen coach, reports MLBTR’s Zach Links (on Twitter). The 50-year-old Saberhagen enjoyed an excellent 16-year career with the Royals, Mets, Red Sox and Rockies, pitching to a 167-117 record with a 3.34 ERA and 1,715 strikeouts against just 471 walks in 2,562 2/3 innings. He was the MVP of the 1985 World Series as a 21-year-old — the same season in which he captured his first Cy Young.

Here are some more miscellaneous notes from around the league…

  • Free agent Jason Kubel is currently coaching little league and isn’t looking to latch on with a Major League team at this time, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Kubel, who has earned $31MM in his career, returned to the Twins on a minor league deal this past season but hit .224/.313/.295  before being designated for assignment. The career .262/.330/.448 hitter belted a career-high 30 homers as recently as 2012 with the D’Backs, though he’s struggled in two seasons since.
  • In a lengthy and excellent piece, Grantland’s Ben Lindbergh looks back at the longest “transaction trees” of each Major League club. Lindbergh examined each member of each team’s 40-man roster and how they came to be a part of the organization, then determined which player’s origin could be traced the furthest. For example, did you know that Mark Trumbo‘s presence on the D’Backs can be traced all the way back to the team’s signing of Greg Aquino back in 1995? How about the fact that both Brian Duensing and Lester Oliveros came to be on the Twins as an indirect result of the team’s selection of Chuck Knoblauch in the 1989 draft? Lindbergh’s piece is a thoroughly enjoyable read for transaction lovers.
  • Craig Counsell has pulled himself out of the running for the Rays‘ managerial gig, reports MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy. Counsell, a special assistant to Brewers GM Doug Melvin, enjoys his current front office role, he explained to McCalvy. Still, he did at least entertain the offer by taking part in a phone interview for the Rays position, McCalvy writes.
  • The Red Sox will promote Raquel Ferreria from senior director of minor league operations to vice president of baseball administration, reports WEEI.com’s Alex Speier. That promotion will make Ferreria, along with Kim Ng and Yankees SVP/assistant GM Jean Afterman, the third female to ascend to a position of VP or higher, Speier writes. Boston director of player development Ben Crockett describes Ferreria as “the glue that holds the farm system together.” Ferreria will continue to oversee minor league operations (individual affiliates, transactions, contracts) and will also be responsible for the Major League (non-payroll) budget and handling immigration and work visa issues, according to Speier. GM Ben Cherington spoke glowingly of Ferreria: “The best thing I can say is in the 16 years now, I can’t remember her making a mistake. I can’t.”

Dodgers Acquire Joel Peralta

The Dodgers announced that they have acquired right-hander Joel Peralta and lefty Adam Liberatore from the Rays in exchange for right-handers Jose Dominguez and Greg Harris.

Joel Peralta

Peralta, 39 in March, has been a workhorse out of the Rays’ bullpen for the past four seasons, averaging 74 appearances and 67 innings per season while posting a 3.58 ERA with 9.8 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 in 269 1/3 innings. Peralta is an extreme fly-ball pitcher, with a ground-ball rate just north of 31 percent in his career, but the pitcher-friendly Dodger Stadium should mitigate some of that concern.

The veteran Peralta gives the Dodgers a much-needed bullpen upgrade at a very reasonable financial cost. He’s due just $2.5MM in 2015 and has club options for 2016 and 2017 at the same rate — neither of which has a buyout attached. There’s an obvious connection between the Dodgers and Peralta, as former Rays GM Andrew Friedman recently jumped ship to become the president of baseball operations with Los Angeles. Friedman no doubt thinks highly of both Peralta and Liberatore.

Peralta struggled, to some extent, in 2014, posting a 4.41 ERA — his worst mark since an ugly 2009 season with the Rockies. However, he still managed to strike out 10.5 hitters per nine innings and showed the best control he has displayed in recent years, walking just 2.1 batters per nine. Peralta’s typically low BABIP spiked to .307 this past season and he allowed homers at a slightly higher clip than usual; those factors are the likely reasoning behind his increased ERA. However, metrics such as FIP (3.40) and SIERA (2.54) feel that Peralta was much better than his earned run average would indicate.

The 27-year-old Liberatore was lights out in Triple-A this past season, notching a 1.66 ERA with 11.9 K/9 against just 2.1 BB/9 in 65 innings of relief work. He was highly effective against both right- and left-handed hitters, holding each to an OPS south of .500.

Dominguez, 24, has received a brief taste of Major League action in each of the past two seasons with L.A., allowing 10 runs in 14 2/3 innings with a 12-to-6 K/BB ratio. He’s shown a propensity for strikeouts in the minors, however, averaging 10 punchouts per nine innings for his career. Dominguez struggled in the lower levels but has posted a 2.22 ERA in 24 1/3 Double-A innings and a 2.61 ERA in 41 1/1 Triple-A innings. Baseball America ranked him 11th among Dodgers prospects last offseason, calling him a “pure power arm” whose fastball sits 97-100 mph and can touch 102. However, BA noted his erratic command and a 50-game suspension for PED use on his minor league track record in their scouting report. MLB.com ranked him 13th among Dodgers prospects midseason, also praising his fastball but noting that his slider is better known for its velocity than its bite at this time.

The Dodgers selected Harris, 20, in the 17th round of the 2013 draft, and he posted nice strikeout numbers in Class A this season. Harris pitched to a 4.45 ERA as a 19-year-old in the Midwest League, whiffing 92 hitters against 28 walks in 87 innings of work. Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel tweets that he’s heard good things about the velocity of both pitchers acquired by the Rays in this deal, with Dominguez having been clocked as high as 103 mph and Harris sitting in the mid 90s as a starter.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Rays Designate Michael Kohn, Cole Figueroa For Assignment

The Rays have designated right-hander Michael Kohn and infielder Cole Figueroa for assignment, the team announced.

Kohn, 28, was signed to a Major League deal by the Rays earlier this offseason after being outrighted by the Angels. The South Carolina native has shown the ability to miss bats at the Major League level, striking out 107 hitters in 110 1/3 innings, but he’s also battled with control issues, walking 73 hitters in that time. The Rays were impressed enough with Kohn to give him that Major League deal, but if he once again clears outright waivers, he’ll be able to elect free agency in search of a new contract.

Figueroa, 27, was originally acquired by the Rays in the Jason Bartlett trade back in 2010. He picked up 49 plate appearances with the Rays this year — his first big league action — but hit just .233/.286/.326 in that small sample. Figueroa is a career .285/.359/.378 hitter in nearly 1200 Triple-A plate appearances and has extensive experience at shortstop, second base and third base.

Rays To Designate Jose Molina For Assignment

The Rays will designate catcher Jose Molina for assignment tonight, according to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times (on Twitter). Molina was set to make $2.75MM in 2015 — the second season of a two-year deal.

The 39-year-old Molina is known as one of the game’s best defensive catchers — a driving factor behind his two-year deal — but his offense dipped to a point in 2014 where the Rays likely felt that his glove’s benefit did not outweigh his bat. Molina batted just .178/.230/.187 in 247 plate appearances. Of his 40 hits, just two — a pair of doubles — went for extra bases. In his Offseason Outlook for the Rays, MLBTR’s Zach Links speculated that Molina’s lack of offense might lead to the Rays looking elsewhere at the catcher position.

Molina has thrown out 37 percent of base-stealers in his career and is known as an excellent pitch framer. That defensive prowess has helped him remain in the Majors for parts of 15 seasons despite the fact that he is a career .233/.282/.327 hitter in nearly 2800 plate appearances.

If Molina is out of the picture, the Rays will likely rely on Ryan Hanigan and rookie Curt Casali to split their catching duties, barring the acquisition of a catcher from outside the organization.

Dioner Navarro Seeks Trade; Three Teams Interested

1:31pm: GM Alex Anthopoulos says that, while a deal is not a fait accompli, he “wouldn’t be surprised if [a trade] were to occur,” as Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca reports on Twitter.

11:05am: Blue Jays catcher Dioner Navarro expressed interest in being dealt after the club inked free agent Russell Martin, according to a report from Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. While the club informed him that it believes he’ll receive plenty of time in a reserve and DH capacity, Heyman writes that Navarro prefers an everyday catching role.

Three teams have shown interest already in the 30-year-old Navarro, who has been a solid producer over each of the last two years. His relatively meager $5MM salary in 2015 would make him interesting to plenty of clubs, and the catching market is lacking in supply.

Navarro’s concerns are not unfounded, it should be noted. It took some time for him to work his way back into a starter’s role, which he last held in 2009 with the Rays, and he no doubt hopes to set himself up for another run at free agency after this year.

Latest On Yoan Moncada

19-year-old Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada remains one of the most intriguing names to watch over the coming months. As he waits for OFAC clearance after being declared an MLB free agent, let’s check in on the latest:

  • While it remains possible that the Cubs and Rangers — currently sitting out the big bonus side of the international amateur market due to past overages — could try to convince Moncada to wait until the summer to sign, writes Ben Badler of Baseball America, the young Cuban seems likely to come available too sign to make that the most plausible outcome. Badler ticks through the teams that, in his estimation, are best situated to make a serious run at Moncada. He lists the NationalsGiantsTigersRaysAngelsBravesRed Sox, and Yankees, noting that New York would figure to be the favorite if they decide the want Moncada.
  • Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs discusses an under-the-radar aspect of the CBA’s provisions regarding international signing penalties. Those dollars, which are steadily rising as multiple clubs blow past the signing limits — with Moncada potentially representing by far the greatest single outlay — are set to be utilized by the league for various, seemingly largely discretionary, purposes relating to international operations. One possibility contemplated in the CBA, funding for the implementation of an international draft, is particularly relevant here. As McDaniel explains, the burgeoning penalty dollars could conceivably go a long way towards a push for a draft. That, in turn, increases the incentives for teams to spend now rather than avoiding the penalties regarding limitations on future bonuses.
  • Both Badler and McDaniel have, of course, been all over the Moncada market. You’ll want to give their pieces a full read to understand all the nuances. And remember that you can click on the Yoan Moncada tag to catch up on all the recent chatter.

Florida Notes: Marlins, Rays, Rodriguez, Ramos

New Cubs skipper Joe Maddon is excited about the Rays‘ list of candidates to take over in the dugout, writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.  “They’ve created a wonderful list, they really have,” Maddon said. “They’ve given themselves an opportunity to interview some really qualified people and make a typically very good Rays decision at the end of the day. I really believe that. You know it’s going to be well thought out, and they’re going to select a solid candidate to lead.”  More on the Rays and Marlins..

  • Marlins president Michael Hill explained to David Laurita of Fangraphs that the club considers a player’s locker room personality and character to be a somewhat significant part of player evaluation.  “I wouldn’t say it’s paramount, but it is part of our decision-making process,” Hill said. “We’re definitely mindful of it. It’s part of the checklist as we go through possibly acquiring a player. We want to try to make sure he fits who we are and who we’re trying to be.
  • Topkin also writes that the Rays figure to make several more 40-man moves and/or trades before the Rule 5 draft, even after dealing Jeremy Hellickson and Cesar Ramos.  Sean Rodriguez and Jose Molina appear to be trade candidates though Tampa Bay could instead swallow the $2.75MM to Molina.  Moving reliever Brandon Gomes, who is out-of-options, could also be a consideration along with dropping rostered minor leaguers like Mike Montgomery or infielder Tim Beckham.
  • A third-party scout in Puerto Rico who saw shortstop Andrew Velazquez, who came to the Rays in the Hellickson deal, was impressed by his recent showing. “Best prospect there, by far. … Super impressive … He’ll move to 2B … Top of order … Fearless … Advanced,” the scout told Topkin via text.
  • With the Rays looking to their upgrade offense, Topkin says it’s worth keeping an eye on Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard and the Dodgers’ outfielder surplus.  Both clubs appear willing to eat significant salary to move those players.
  • Expecting the Rays to start spending big if they get a new stadium?  Don’t bank on it, writes Joe Henderson of The Tampa Tribune.

Florida Notes: Stanton, Rays Manager

The Marlins and slugger Giancarlo Stanton may be on the cusp of a 13-year, $325MM contract extension, but Stanton may be “playing a dangerous game,” writes Yahoo’s Jeff Passan. The Marlins under Jeffrey Loria and David Samson have bamboozled and excused their way out of spending money on the major league product. Passan wonders why Loria would eschew the methods that have made him money over the years. The rumored payday could be a “Faustian bargain” if the front office doesn’t properly fill the roster around Stanton.

  • Stanton’s negotiations are all about power – and not just home run power – says Tyler Kepner of the New York Times. As it stands, Stanton is still two years away from free agency. The rumored deal is expected to contain a no-trade clause and an opt-out after the 2019 season. Both clauses give Stanton leverage. He can potentially dictate where he’s traded, force a mid-contract extension, or hit the open market as a 30-year-old. To me, this mitigates the risk of Loria-being-Loria.
  • The Rays have concluded the first round of interviews for their open manager position, reports Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Barry Larkin was the last of ten interviewees in the initial round. The club will step back before deciding how many candidates to bring back for a round of in-person interviews.
  • Andrew Velazquez and Justin Williams – the players acquired in the Jeremy Hellickson trade – were immediately ranked as the ninth and tenth best prospects in the Rays system by MLB.com, Topkin notes.