Saturday, February 24, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays continue trade talks as players wait for news

ST. PETERSBURG — Infielder Steve Pearce and starters Chris Archer, Matt Moore, Jake Odorizzi and Drew Smyly all walked out of Tropicana Field on Sunday still members of the Rays.

Which ones still are after today's 4 p.m. trade deadline will depend on the denouement of discussions with other teams that started weeks ago and carried into Sunday night.

"It looked like baseball was busy (Saturday) night into the late hours, and I'm sure that will be the same (Sunday) night and up until the deadline," Rays manager Kevin Cash said.

Having four starting pitchers of assorted value and quality has made the Rays a popular subject of discussion and speculation.

Sunday afternoon saw the rekindling of oft-tossed rumors involving a big deal involving Archer or Moore with the Dodgers, run by former Rays boss Andrew Friedman.

Feeding the Dodgers speculation: two of their top prospects, Cody Bellinger and Alex Verdugo, being scratched from a Double-A game; starter Bud Norris leaving Sunday's game due to injury; Tampa Bay scouts being seen at Dodgers minor-league games; and the close relationship between Friedman and Rays baseball operations president Matt Silverman.

Archer was aware late Sunday afternoon of the renewed speculation but maintained that he wasn't worried about the possibility and was "staying present" as he is scheduled to start tonight for the Rays.

"I'm human — it'll probably cross my mind," Archer said. "But my focus is pitching (tonight), so I'm going to do my normal routine — get a good meal in, get to bed at a decent hour and just go from there."

The Dodgers are one of several teams the Rays have engaged with that have the type of high-end young talent they would want in return, others including the Cubs, Giants, Pirates and Rangers, all of whom had scouts at the Trop during the weekend. Also represented during the three-game sweep of the Yankees were the Blue Jays, Indians, Marlins, Orioles and White Sox.

Though Archer would bring the highest return, Moore is still considered the Rays starter most likely to be traded. That's in part due to his improved performance, and in part to his contract status, as he heads into the first of three option years, due either a $7 million salary or $2.5 million buyout. As Moore left the Trop clubhouse Sunday he said he expected to still be with the Rays today.

Pearce, who as a veteran on a one-year deal is expected to be dealt, was held out of the Rays lineup Sunday, which seemed to be a sign that a trade was pending, with the Indians among those interested.

"Just doing what I'm told," Pearce said. "Maybe just a day game after a night game off. You guys know more than me."

Given the dearth of starting pitching available now — and on the free agent market over the winter — the Rays are in position to demand a high price, so it may just be a matter of waiting until someone meets it.

The Yankees, in admittedly a slightly better position in holding two of the game's premium closers (plus Dellin Betances), took full advantage in the past week, trading Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs and Andrew Miller to the Indians for a treasure trove of young talent.

"If you possess an extremely high-talented closer, as we did … you could exploit this market pretty strongly if you were willing to delve in those waters," general manager Brian Cashman said Sunday.

Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.

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