While the Rays are typically known for making careful, calculated moves in order to maximize long-term success, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times discussed yesterday the possibility of Tampa making a splash in the trade market prior to the trade deadline on August 1 by pursuing two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani, on whom the Angels are expected to consider offers.
Such a move would be a major departure from the club’s typical model, though president of baseball operations Erik Neander and his front office have shown a willingness to be more aggressive in recent years. Trading promising right-hander Joe Ryan for Nelson Cruz ahead of the 2021 trade deadline, extending Wander Franco on an 11-year deal that offseason, and pursuing Freddie Freeman in free agency are all signs from the relatively recent past that the Rays could be willing to take bigger swings in their pursuit of a World Series championship, and there’s no acquisition that would move the needle more than Ohtani.
While the club certainly has the pieces necessary to swing a deal for Ohtani between a farm system that ranks 8th in the majors per Fangraphs and a deep group of position players at the big league level, Topkin cautions that the Rays are highly unlikely to enter a bidding war for Ohtani as the club wouldn’t be able to retain the superstar in free agency. Between that unwillingness to beat out other potential suitors like the Yankees and Dodgers for Ohtani and the considerable chance that the Angels don’t move him at all, as they’re currently sitting just one game under .500 and five games back of a Wild Card berth, Ohtani in a Rays uniform certainly seems unlikely.
More from around the AL East…
- Orioles center fielder Cedric Mullins exited yesterday’s game with right quad tightness, as noted by MASN’s Roch Kubatko. Mullins is currently considered day-to-day, and the club will check in with him today to determine the severity of the injury. Manager Brandon Hyde expressed optimism following yesterday’s game, telling reporters (including Kubatko) that the club is “hoping we caught a break there.” Fortunately for the Orioles, they boast a deep group of position players that can help cover for Mullins in the event he misses time, though properly replacing a strong defensive center fielder with a 123 wRC+ is easier said than done.
- Sticking with the Orioles, the club has been taking things slowly with first baseman Ryan Mountcastle as he returns from a month on the injured list due to vertigo. While Mountcastle has looked good in limited time since coming off the IL, with a single and a double in five trips to the plate, Kubatko notes that his ability to reclaim a full-time role has been further complicated by the emergence of Ryan O’Hearn as a legitimate starting option. In 156 plate appearances this season, O’Hearn has slashed an impressive .310/.359/.528 with a wRC+ of 143, albeit in a strictly platoon role. Though Mountcastle currently seems poised to see most of his starts come against southpaws, Hyde indicated that setup may not be permanent, telling reporters that he’s “sure” Mountcastle will get some starts against same-handed pitching and that “we’ll see how the second half goes.”
- Blue Jays closer Jordan Romano exited the All-Star game last week due to lower back tightness and has since undergone an MRI, as relayed by SportsCentre’s Scott Mitchell. Manager John Schneider told reporters, including Mitchell, that the imaging came back clean and Romano is currently considered day-to-day. Romano has established himself as one of the league’s best closers over the past four seasons, pitching to a 2.21 ERA (190 ERA+) and a 3.01 FIP while racking up 87 saves. In the event the right-hander is unavailable, Erik Swanson and Yimi Garcia appear to be the most likely candidates to handle the ninth.