We’ve heard recently that the Rays could be willing to deal lefty Matt Moore, and Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that the interest is building. The Rangers are “hot on Moore’s trail,” per the report, with three or four other rival organizations also showing signs of pursuit.
Moore struggled in his return from Tommy John surgery last year, and his current 2016 ERA of 5.04 isn’t exactly sparkling. But as Topkin details, the 27-year-old southpaw has shown signs of returning to being the type of quality starter he was before his new UCL was installed.
Thus far, Moore has boosted his strikeout rate (8.5 K/9) and lowered his walk rate (2.6 BB/9) as against his work last year. That reflects a return to his pre-TJ, double-digit swinging strike rate along with a reduction of his once-troubling tendency to issue free passes. Moore’s fastball velocity has moved back north, even if it’s still shy of what he once delivered.
Moore carried a 3.66 ERA into the month of May, then was banged up in his next seven starts. But he’s had only one dud in his last four outings, and that seems to have helped to fuel new interest. The biggest issue thus far has been the long ball, as Moore is coughing up 1.61 dingers per nine on a 15.0% HR/FB rate.
Performance is obviously hugely important in assessing Moore’s trade value, but the underlying contract rights are also critical. While much of the super-cheap portion of his early-career extension is already in the rearview mirror, he is still owed just $5MM this year and can be controlled for three more campaigns through a series of options. If all are exercised, he’d earn only $26MM over the three seasons to come, with $4.25MM in buyouts baked in if things turn south.
It remains to be seen what approach Tampa Bay takes at the deadline, but the club already looked like a plausible seller of starting pitching before it fell off the pace in the AL East. The Rays could have a bit of a rotation surplus, particularly once Alex Cobb comes back from his own TJ procedure, and a seller’s market beckons.
The club’s decision as to which, if any, starter to deal will be an interesting storyline to follow over the next month. Cobb has been the subject of trade chatter in the past. Jake Odorizzi looks like another quality, controllable arm that could draw a strong return; indeed, he placed eighth on the most recent list of MLBTR’s top trade candidates. And some have wondered whether even staff ace Chris Archer could be moved, though he is well off of his typical run-prevention numbers.