The Tampa Bay Rays decided they did not have enough outfielders to start the season. Well, not enough former San Diego Padres outfielders to be exact when they chose to trade for Manuel Margot, as well as C/OF Logan Driscoll, whom the Padres drafted at 73 overall in last year’s MLB Draft out of George Mason University. More surprising additions to an already crowded outfield of Hunter Renfroe (acquired earlier in the off-season as part of the Tommy Pham trade), Kevin Kiermaier, Yoshitomo Tsutugo (Nippon Professional Baseball player from Japan) and Austin Meadows (Pittsburgh Pirates fans may be familiar with the name).
All that this latest move cost them was their number one reliever, Emilio Pagan. Last year Pagan posted a 2.31 ERA and a .810 WHIP, with 96 Ks and 20 Saves in 70 innings. This trade was very surprising to me for many reasons, but mostly because the Rays don’t often give up players with so much control; Pagan is still a pre-arb player and is under team control through 2023.
This isn’t the only Rays’ trade of the off-season that has come under some scrutiny. The first was the aforementioned trade that sent OF Tommy Pham and SS/RHP Prospect Jake Cronenworth to the Padres for OF Hunter Renfroe and SS Prospect Xavier Edwards. The second was the trade of Rays #4 and MLB top 100 prospect, Matthew Liberatore, and 19-year-old catcher, Edgardo Rodriguez for OF/Prototypical DH and OF Randy Arozarena. That adds two more potential outfielders to the already crowded mix. So why would the Tampa Bay Rays make what has been viewed as their third questionable trade of the off-season? I believe it is because they are preparing for a potential move that could send one of their many outfielders packing and I don’t think it will be anyone that has been newly acquired (this includes Austin Meadows, who was obtained in a pretty infamous trade with our Pittsburgh Pirates). So, who could they be looking to move and who is a reasonable trade partner?
The player that makes the most sense for the Rays to move to on from would be CF Kevin Kiermaier, mostly because it would be a very “Rays-like” move. They signed Kiermaier to a 6-year contract extension prior to the 2017 season, with a one-year club option in 2023. He is due to make $10 million this year, $11.5 million in 2021, $12 million in 2022 and $13 million in 2023 (with a $2.5 million team buyout). Now they have Margot, who is 4 years younger, to step in for the next 3 years at a much lower cost, with similar offensive and defensive production.
Now if only there was a trade partner that had stated that they have been looking for center fielder through trade or free agency. Wait a second, the Pirates new general manager, Ben Cherington, has been quoted as saying exactly this. Now that a potential trade partner has been identified, what exactly would it take to get it done and how could it made to be beneficial to both parties involved?
Well, first the Pirates would be asked to take on the remainder of Kiermaier’s contract, so I would hope that Cherington would ask for a prospect to go along with it to make it more worthwhile. If I was in his seat, I would start by looking straight at the Ray’s #7 prospect, catcher Ronaldo Hernandez. He is currently the #10 catching prospect on the MLB Pipeline. The 22-year-old Colombian just finished up a full season in High A with the Port Charlotte Stone Crabs, posting a slash line of .265/.299/.397, with 9 HRs and 31 extra base hits. If they are not all for moving their only catching prospect in the top 30, I would gladly slide down to the Rays #20 LHP John Doxakis. Doxakis was recently drafted in the 2nd round of the 2019 MLB Draft out of Texas A&M. A swingman/starter/possible bullpen anchor started 10 games in the New York-Penn League for the Hudson Valley Renegades, striking out 31 in 32.2 innings, while posting a 1.93 ERA and a .950 WHIP.
Just taking on Kiermaier’s contract will not get this job done. The Pirates will have to give something up in return. My mind immediately goes to the bullpen, where a spot has just opened up for the Rays. The first offer that Cherington should make is RHP/reliever/potential closer, Keone Kela. With only one year left until free agency and a $3.725 Million contract, the Rays may want a prospect to be thrown in to make the deal get don’t and I am fine with that as long as it is not a Shane Baz caliber prospect. If they are looking for someone with a little more control, then Michael Feliz may be someone the Rays might be interested in.
Please understand that this is just something that has been running around in my mind since the second trade of the off-season between the Rays and the Padres; it is not something that has been discussed openly. However, in my opinion I think it is something that should be.
Follow Craig on Twitter: @BucsBasement