What are the odds the Rays trade for Brad Hand or Pat Neshek?
In each of the last three seasons, the Rays have been sellers at the trade deadline. They shipped away David Price in 2014, got rid of David DeJesus and Kevin Jepsen in 2015 and flipped Matt Moore, Steve Pearce and Brandon Guyer in 2016.
This year, though, things look to be different. Tampa Bay is 51-48, in position to grab a Wild Card spot and only 3.5 games behind the Red Sox in the AL East. The team already added one veteran last month (shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria) and picked up another one this weekend (reliever Sergio Romo).
With a week to go until the deadline, the Rays might not be done dealing, either. Sports betting website MyTopSportsbooks gives them 8/1 odds of acquiring Padres reliever Brad Hand, as well as 8/1 odds of reeling in Phillies reliever Pat Neshek.
Now, these odds don't really have any practical use — it doesn't seem you can gamble on them through MyTopSportsbooks, or through the various sports betting sites they review. It's more of a diversion, like slapping odds on the possible Home Run Derby winners or the contenders to start the All-Star Game.
The numbers didn't come out of nowhere, though — as the Tampa Bay Times' Marc Topkin reported last week, the Rays might have interest in both Hand and Neshek. And looking at their track records, we can see why they're such hot commodities.
Hand has been lights-out since coming to San Diego last season. In 140-1/3 innings — the most in the National League for a reliever during that time — the 27-year-old left-hander has a 2.63 ERA, with 177 strikeouts to 50 walks. With two years of team control beyond 2017, he'll fetch a pretty penny on the trade market.
Neshek is a free agent at year's end, and at age 36, he represents a bigger risk. Still, he's dominated in Philadelphia this season, with the second-lowest ERA (1.12) among qualified NL relievers. Having racked up 45 strikeouts and issued just five walks, the right-hander should come with a hefty price tag, too.
Both Hand and Neshek have shown the ability to retire opposite-handed hitters, so they won't just be situational relievers. The Rays' beleaguered bullpen could certainly use an upgrade. Whether they can offer a better package than the Dodgers or Red Sox — who are also linked to Hand and Neshek — remains to be seen.
Despite their sweep at the hands of the Rangers, the Rays are still in contention — indeed, MyTopSportsbooks gives them 24/1 odds of winning the pennant, which rank seventh in the American League. Adding a late-inning reliever could put them over the edge and into the playoffs.