Tampa Bay Rays Rumors

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

Pen Notes: Astros Seek Impact Arm; Twins Prioritizing Control; Lowe Drawing Interest

The Astros are “pushing hard” to find an upgrade in the bullpen and have several irons in the fire, according to Jim Bowden of ESPN.com (via Twitter). Given the players under consideration, it looks like Houston is aiming high. We just heard of talks with the Padres that may include Craig Kimbrel, and Bowden says they’ve also discussed Joaquin Benoit. As Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle tweeted earlier, the Rays have spoken with the Astros about pen arms, though he adds nothing seems likely there, and Bowden lists Brad Boxberger and Jake McGee as names that have come up. And Houston has even made inquiries on outstanding Reds closer Aroldis Chapman, he adds.

Here’s more on the relief market, which should be among the most active areas of discussion leading up to tomorrow’s deadline.

  • Though the Twins are in the market for relief help, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports (via Twitter) that they’re not interested in either Junichi Tazawa or Craig Breslow of the Red Sox. The news that the Twins are uninterested is perhaps less noteworthy than the actual reason for their lack of interest; Berardino hears that the Twins are turned off by Tazawa’s five-plus years of service (he’ll be a free agent after 2016) and Breslow’s impending free agency, which implies that they’re looking for bullpen help that will be around for more than a year and a half.
  • Mariners right-hander Mark Lowe is drawing quite a bit of interest, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (Twitter link). The journeyman reliever is in the midst of a breakout season, having pitched to an incredible 1.00 ERA with 11.8 K/9, 2.8 BB/9 and a 36.5 percent ground-ball rate in 36 innings this season. Lowe’s average fastball velocity of 95 mph is his best since 2011, and because he took a minor league deal in an attempt to revitalize his career (so far, so good), any team could afford him from a financial standpoint.

AL East Notes: Pineda, Ackley, Orioles, Rays

Yankees right-hander Michael Pineda is dealing with a right arm injury, as WFAN’s Mike Francesca first reported, although the injury’s severity remains unclear. Joel Sherman of the New York Post cites Yankees executives in saying that the issue is a strained muscle in Pineda’s forearm as opposed to anything in his elbow, and it’s not believed to be serious at this time (Twitter links). Nonetheless, Marly Rivera of ESPN tweets that Pineda won’t start tonight’s game for New York, as had previously been scheduled. While many will speculate that there’s an increased need to add pitching, there’s been no definitive report on Pineda requiring a lengthy absence from the rotation. (And while some have said otherwise, Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News tweets that there’s no issue with Ivan Nova‘s arm at present.)

More on the Yankees and their division, which is still reeling from Toronto’s now-official addition of David Price

  • The Yankees recently reached out to the Mariners to express interest in Dustin Ackley, reports Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News (Twitter link). The two sides discussed a scenario in which outfielders Ramon Flores and Ben Gamel would’ve gone to the Mariners, but Seattle GM Jack Zduriencik wanted more for Ackley, and talks have since cooled, per Feinsand. Ackley, the former No. 2 overall pick in the draft, is again struggling this season and has batted a mere .215/.270/.366. Many have speculated that Zduriencik is loath to undertake in any type of sale, as his job security could be tied to the Mariners’ finish this season. Nonetheless, it’s a bit surprising to hear him holding out for any sort of return on Ackley, though Flores and Gamel admittedly aren’t all that well-regarded. Flores ranked 27th on MLB.com’s midseason edition of the Yankees’ Top 30 prospects, while Gamel didn’t place.
  • The Orioles are continually being asked for the likes of Kevin Gausman, Jonathan Schoop, Mychal Givens and even Manny Machado in trades, reports Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com (via Twitter). Each of those players is considered a deal-breaker for Baltimore, he writes. The Orioles have been seeking upgrades to their corner outfield situation recently.
  • The Rays are indeed listening to offers on Nate Karns (as was reported earlier today), tweets Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. However, Topkin feels that the likeliest trade candidate, if the Rays move someone at all, remains right-hander Kevin Jepsen. Topkin reported last week that the Rays may very well trade a relief pitcher prior to the trade deadline.

Pitching Notes: Teheran, Karns, Ross, Giants

We just checked in on Yovani Gallardo, who may or may not be dealt before the deadline. Here’s the latest on the starting pitching market, which was one of many topics covered in today’s podcast with Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca.

  • Despite reportedly being prepared to deal Alex Wood to the Dodgers, the Braves are still listening on Julio Teheran, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports (Twitter links). He suggests, however, that the club may just be hoping for an overpay rather than actively shopping the young righty.
  • Given their starting depth, the Rays have indicated a willingness to listen to offers on right-hander Nate Karns, Passan reports on Twitter. Karns is already 27, but has ample team control and has emerged with 115 innings of 3.37 ERA pitching this year.
  • Padres righty Tyson Ross is “drawing intense interest,” Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports on Twitter. The AstrosBlue JaysCubs, and Dodgers are all in the mix, says Heyman, and Houston could be the “at the forefront” of efforts to pry him away from San Diego. Notably, many of those clubs are also viewed as prime contenders for David Price. Heyman further breaks down Price’s market in an article today.
  • The Giants are also said to be looking into a run at Price after falling short in a “late push” for Cole Hamels (per Rosenthal, on Twitter). GM Bobby Evans says he doesn’t foresee the club parting with players from the team’s current everyday lineup in any deals, as Alex Pavlovic of CSNBayArea.com tweets. But the Tigers do like several of San Francisco’s minor league arms, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports tweets, which could make them plausible pursuers of the ace lefty.


Angels Acquire David DeJesus

The Angels have acquired David DeJesus from the Rays just minutes after finalizing a deal to acquire David Murphy from the Indians, tweets Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Sherman had first tweeted that DeJesus was on the verge of being dealt, and Yahoo’s Tim Brown tweeted that the Angels were on the receiving end. The Rays have since announced that DeJesus has been traded to the Halos for right-hander Eduar Lopez.

David DeJesus

In DeJesus, the Angels have acquired a second veteran bat that handles right-handed pitching well but is limited to a platoon role. DeJesus has seen just nine plate appearances against lefties this year, but he’s been solid versus righties, hitting .263/.331/.384. For his career, DeJesus has slashed .285/.362/.441 when holding the platoon advantage.

In Lopez, the Rays have acquired a young right-hander that ranked 22nd among Angels prospects entering the 2015 campaign, per Baseball America. The 20-year-old Dominican hurler has spent the season in the Rookie-level Pioneer League, where he has posted a 4.32 ERA with a 33-to-16 K/BB ratio in eight starts (33 1/3 innings).

DeJesus is earning $5MM in 2015 and has a 2016 club option for the same rate that comes with a $1MM buyout. Of his 2015 salary, approximately $1.91MM remains. Coupled with the buyout, the Rays will save about $2.9MM on this deal. The trade will also create more at-bats in the season’s final months for John Jaso, whose return has limited DeJesus’ role with the club.

While Murphy and DeJesus have somewhat redundant skill sets, the Angels could use either at designated hitter on days when facing a right-handed pitcher. That calls into question Matt Joyce‘s role with the team, as the free-agent-to-be and longtime platoon slugger has failed to produce anything close to his career norms in his lone season with the Angels. Joyce is currently on the 7-day disabled list, so there’s no need to take immediate action with his roster spot, but the presence of Murphy, DeJesus, Shane Victorino, Mike Trout and Kole Calhoun in the outfield plus C.J. Cron and Albert Pujols as first base/DH options seems to leave Joyce without much of a role on the club.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Stark’s Latest: Giants, Hamels, Price, Orioles, Gallardo, Alvarez

The latest deadline rumblings from Jayson Stark of ESPN.com

  • The Giants are still searching for starting pitching, but they’re only looking at top-of-the-rotation arms to pair with Madison Bumgarner in a playoff rotation, Stark hears. San Francisco has checked in on both David Price and Cole Hamels, but they’re not considered a favorite to land Hamels from the Phillies, and there’s still no definitive sense that Price has been made available by the Tigers. Yesterday, Stark reported that the Dodgers and Rangers were emerging as the favorites in the Hamels market.
  • The Orioles are speaking with other clubs to get a feel for what kind of return they could get if they market Matt Wieters, Chris Davis, Wei-Yin Chen, Tommy Hunter and Bud Norris, Stark hears. However, rival clubs feel the O’s will only sell if they slide to six or more games back in the Wild Card race — and they’re 3.5 games out with four to play before the deadline at this time. If they make up a bit of ground, they could add a bat, but Stark says it’d likely be a bench piece as opposed to a bigger name. Baltimore GM Dan Duquette said last week he would be a buyer regardless of the team’s play, though others have suggested that the Orioles could still end up selling if they struggle enough.
  • Adding help that can be controlled beyond 2015 is the priority for the Rangers, which is why they’re targeting Hamels, Tyson Ross and Andrew Cashner while also listening to offers on Yovani Gallardo. However, according to Stark, those moves aren’t linked, and Texas could acquire a rotation piece for 2016 but also hang onto Gallardo. Personally, I think Gallardo’s pitched well enough to warrant a qualifying offer. A draft pick and improved odds of making a late run (especially if they do add another rotation arm) present enough value that the Rangers shouldn’t feel obligated to simply take the best offer for Gallardo if the proposed packages aren’t all that impressive.
  • The Pirates are now likely to hang onto Pedro Alvarez after shopping him without success for several weeks. They’ve asked the Brewers, White Sox and Rays about Adam Lind, Adam LaRoche and James Loney, respectively, but with Alvarez in the fold, they’re not likely to make a move at first. Stark adds that multiple sources downplayed the recent reports connecting Pittsburgh to the Red SoxMike Napoli.

Quick Hits: Royals, Pirates, Dodgers, Benoit

Here’s a roundup of the latest trade-deadline-related news:

  • The Royals are still working to upgrade their bench, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports tweets.  Kansas City is looking at both infielders and outfielders to improve its reserve group.
  • Rays reliever Kevin Jepsen is now a stronger trade candidate now that the Rays have slipped to 49-51, Morosi tweets.  Jepsen, who is eligible for free agency after the 2016 season, owns a 2.88 ERA with 7.3 K/9 and 4.2 BB/9 through 45 appearances this season.
  • Tigers manager Brad Ausmus is adamant that his team should not sell before the deadline, Chris Iott of MLive.com writes.
  • Pirates GM Neal Huntington says that he’s not necessarily done shopping even after acquiring Aramis Ramirez, Adam Berry of MLB.com writes.  “We’ve shored up what we felt was our biggest soft spot. We’ll continue to look,” Huntington said. “It just gives us some versatility and flexibility to find where we think the next best match and next best fit is.”  However, he wouldn’t specify what area he might target in the coming days.
  • One issue for the Dodgers is that they aren’t willing to part with top prospects Corey Seager or Julio Urias, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets.  At that point, there’s a big dropoff to whoever their No. 3 prospect might be, whether it’s pitcher Jose De Leon or someone else.
  • The perception in the market is that the Padres will definitely move Joaquin Benoit before the deadline, Buster Olney of ESPN.com tweets.

Rays More Likely To Move Reliever Than Add Bat

The Rays, who currently sit six and a half games back in the AL East, are receiving significant interest in their top relievers and could move one of Brad Boxberger, Jake McGee or Kevin Jepsen even if they remain in contention, according to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Meanwhile, veterans such as David DeJesus and John Jaso could also be available in the coming week, reports SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo, who also lists Jepsen as one of the team’s likeliest trade pieces.

Boxberger will likely be the team’s most sought after trade chip and will have the highest price in a trade, Topkin writes, though he notes that McGee is become pricey, at least by the Rays’ standards. Jepsen though, is the likeliest trade candidate among Rays relievers, according to Topkin, as his salary will get a notable bump this winter, and he’s eligible for free agency following the 2016 season. Cotillo also lists Jepsen among the team’s likeliest pieces to move. (He notes, as well, that starters Erasmo Ramirez, Nate Karns and Alex Colome are drawing interest, but the Rays aren’t inclined to deal from their rotation.)

For the Rays to part with Boxberger, one would have to imagine a fairly sizable haul. The 27-year-old came to the Rays along with Logan Forsythe in the trade that sent Jesse Hahn and Alex Torres to the Padres, and he’s been dominant since his acquisition. (He was quite good in San Diego as well.) Boxberger cemented himself as the Rays’ top setup man in 2014, and when McGee required offseason elbow surgery, Boxberger separated himself from the pack to lock down the closer’s role early in the season as McGee recovered. Over the past two years, he’s notched an excellent 2.67 ERA with 13.2 K/9, 3.4 BB/9 and a ground-ball rate a bit north of 40 percent.

In addition to Boxberger’s excellent results, he’s also controllable through the 2019 season, so any team picking him up would be doing so for another four and a half seasons. The former No. 43 overall pick won’t even be eligible for arbitration until after the 2016 season, so it’s easy to see why the Rays would place the highest price tag on Boxberger, whose salary should remain near the league minimum in 2016 and at least manageable for the Rays in 2017.

McGee, on the other hand, is already earning $3.55MM and has been nothing short of dominant since returning from the disabled list. Boxberger has remained the closer for most of the season, which will serve to limit McGee’s forthcoming arbitration raise to some extent, but the hard-throwing lefty still has plenty of holds and strikeouts this season that will come into play in such talks. In fact, McGee has allowed just four runs (three earned) all season long, and each of those runs came in one lone disastrous outing. He’s rattled off 20 consecutive scoreless appearances — a span of 19 1/3 innings in which he’s posted a 25-to-3 K/BB ratio.

As for Jepsen, he’s delivered strong bottom-line results since being acquired from the Angels in exchange for Matt Joyce (who has struggled in his new surroundings), but his peripheral stats have also taken a step back. Both his strikeout and walk rates are among the worst of his career, and while his 94.4 mph average fastball is strong, it’s down more than a full mile per hour when compared to his 2014 velocity. His swinging strike rate is down nearly three percent from 2014 as well.

Jepsen’s earning $3.025MM in 2015 and will get a raise this winter, so perhaps the Rays, faced with the possibility of paying a pair of relievers something in the vicinity of $5MM apiece, the team’s preference is to unload one of them right now. If that’s the case, moving Jepsen would be less detrimental to their 2015 chances than moving the more dominant and more controllable McGee.

Getting back to DeJesus and Jaso, both left-handed veterans are hitting reasonably well, though Jaso has spent most of the season on the disabled list. Each is a platoon player, with DeJesus having received just nine plate appearances against lefties all year. DeJesus has hit righties at a .270/.336/.395 clip, though, and he has a history of performing well when holding the platoon advantage. His contract contains a $5MM option for the 2016 season, so any team that picks him up could benefit from his services beyond this year.

Jaso only recently returned from a left wrist injury, but he’s shown no signs of ill effects at the plate. He’s mashed at a .359/.435/.538 clip thus far, and while that type of production clearly isn’t sustainable, Jaso has a very nice track record against right-handed pitching. He’s a career .275/.370/.428 hitter against righties and could help any club in need of help in that area. Jaso’s been a catcher for most of his career, but the Rays have used him at DH and in left field this year, as he does have multiple concussions in his past. He’s making $3.175MM in 2015 and is a free agent at the end of the year.

Earlier this week, Peter Gammons reported that there were as many as 16 clubs looking for bullpen help, so the Rays will have no shortage of trade partners. The Blue Jays, in particular, have been known to be hot after relief help. That’s also said to be the Twins’ top priority, and given the fact that Minnesota has an up-and-coming young core, adding a controllable arm such as McGee or Boxberger to supplement that group could hold appeal to them. The Pirates are reportedly working on a trade for a relief arm right now, with the other team in the mix not yet known. Jeff Todd and I discussed a number of AL teams looking to add relief help on yesterday’s podcast.


2016 Competitive Balance Lottery Results

The Reds have drawn the first competitive balance selection in the 2016 draft, as Cash Kruth of MLB.com reports. While the precise draft slots remain to be determined, Cincinnati will pick after the conclusion of the first round (including compensation choices).

Here is the order of the selections, which were determined by lottery between the clubs that fell among the ten smallest markets and/or the ten smallest revenue pools league-wide. Other teams that participate in revenue sharing are also eligible, but only for the second round.

Round A (selections occur after first round)

1. Reds
2. Athletics
3. Rockies
4. Diamondbacks
5. Marlins
6. Pirates

Round B (selections occur after second round)

1. Padres
2. Indians
3. Twins
4. Brewers
5. Orioles
6. Rays

These results mean that the Cardinals, Royals, and Mariners failed to receive a pick despite being eligible. With some restrictions, the picks can be traded — and increasingly have been in recent seasons. You can take a look at this year’s draft results and slot values to get an idea of the range of selections (and drafted players) that the most recent competitive balance awards ultimately represented.


East Notes: Mets, Zobrist, Smoker, Jays, Papelbon, Red Sox, Smyly

Here’s the latest out of baseball’s eastern divisions:

  • New York remains in contact with the Athletics on the versatile Ben Zobrist, Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News reports. The fit is obvious, and the teams have long said to be in contact, but Ackert says that things have progressed to the point that Oakland has made a specific prospect ask. Nevertheless, no deal is imminent, per the report.
  • The Mets are loath to part with outfielder Michael Conforto or shortstop Amed Rosario to add a bat, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com hears (Twitter link), echoing a recent report. But the team is still certainly after a hitter, as Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com tweets that Michael Cuddyer‘s injury situation has led to a “seismic[] shift[]” in the ballclub’s deadline approach. We had heard earlier in the summer that the team was interested in offense even before Cuddyer’s knee troubles worsened, but at the time the focus seemed more on the infield.
  • Lefty Josh Smoker has opened eyes in the Mets organization, Mike Puma of the New York Post notes on Twitter. The 26-year-old was a first-round pick of the Nationals, but never gained much traction. Now, he’s said to be bringing big heat at Double-A and could be a candidate to see time in the New York pen.
  • The Blue Jays are primarily focused on adding a starter and are not presently discussing reliever Jonathan Papelbon with the Phillies, Heyman adds on Twitter. It could be that Toronto is allowing the development of its rotation plans drive the bus on whether (and how) it acts on the relief market.
  • The Red Sox have already made some moves focused on giving MLB time to younger players, notes Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald, who argues that Boston ought to do more of the same the rest of the way. One forward-looking deadline move, says Lauber, would be to resume pursuit of Cole Hamels, who per the report would not be inclined to trigger his no-trade clause just because an acquiring team is not in contention.
  • Rays lefty Drew Smyly is making good on reports indicating that he’d try to throw again, as Josh Vitale of the Charlotte Sun reports (Twitter links). After emerging from a 40-pitch live BP feeling well, Smyly says he’s hopeful of beginning a rehab stint soon. It remains to be seen how long he’ll take to work back to the big leagues, particularly with Tampa Bay likely to exercise quite a bit of caution with an important asset.

AL East Deadline Notes: Jays, Sox, Yankees, Rays

Blue Jays fans are watching the coming trade deadline with as much anticipation as any group of supporters, as GM Alex Anthopoulos has spoken quite a bit about the club’s intention to look hard at making impactful additions. As Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca writes, it’s worth considering the club’s summer trade history both to gain some insight into how the organization operates and to better appreciate the reasonable expectations. Toronto faces a “tricky time,” says Davidi, who provides a lengthy overview of past deals. Likewise, Tim Britton of the Providence Journal breaks down the recent deadline work of Red Sox GM Ben Cherington, who faces tough questions as his club has stumbled coming out of the All-Star break.

Here’s more from the AL East:

  • Yankees GM Brian Cashman indicated that he does not expect to strike a major deal this summer, as Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News reports. “I would predict it more likely not doing anything than doing something significant,” Cashman said. “We’re making our phone calls, talking to all clubs involved. We’ve practically analyzed everything.” In addition to citing his belief in the club’s current options, Cashman said that the “the acquisition costs might be prohibitive or that unicorn might not exist.”
  • Going into further detail, Cashman indicated that the Yankees are unlikely to go get a big-time arm to add to their staff, as Feinsand further reports“Are there available starters that are better? Yes, but the acquisitions cost are certain players that I have no intention of moving at this stage,” Cashman said. “I would say the smarter play would be to hold off on shooting any of those particular bullets.”
  • Neither do the Yankees seem likely to be aggressive in attempting to upgrade at second base. Cashman said that the infield market was particularly thin, noting that it was hard even to identify available options that could theoretically provide better production than incumbent Stephen Drew. Cashman also addressed the decision to send down young second baseman Rob Refsnyder, saying he preferred that approach to designating another player for assignment. “I can get Refsnyder back,” he said. “As we approach the trade deadline, I think it’s better to have all assets in play to give us as much flexibility as we can have.”
  • Rays owner Stuart Sternberg indicated that his club will also likely rely primarily on internal options rather than making a deadline splash, as Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports“People say, ‘Buyer? Seller?’ It will be no different than we’ve done in years past,” said Sternberg. “I think we’re in almost precisely the same spot we’ve been in every year since ’08. Which is, we’re close, we feel we have a really good team. We’d like to see our team on the field all at once. And we’ll try to be opportunistic.” Though the team has obviously scuffled of late, and will be prepared to sell if it falls too far back, the Tampa Bay owner said he hopes to remain in contention and believes the current roster is good enough — especially with players returning from injury — to stay in the mix.