ST. PETERSBURG — Most speculation leading to the July 31 deadline for nonwaiver trades will be on who the Rays could get to bolster their offense.
But they are more likely to trade away a player from their current big-league roster, specifically one of their top relievers, even if they remain in the playoff race, the Tampa Bay Times has learned.
RHP Brad Boxberger, who has 24 saves and an All-Star selection on his resume, is likely to be the most sought after, and thus have the highest price tag, given his contract status. Boxberger will get only a slight raise from his $521,400 salary next season before the big bump that comes with arbitration eligibility in 2017.
LHP Jake McGee also will be a popular subject of conversation, given his overpowering fastball and impressive work since returning from elbow surgery, including 20 straight scoreless outings and a 1.19 ERA. McGee is getting pricey by Rays standards, in line for a raise from $3.55 million to in excess of $5 million next season, though appealing to other teams since he is not eligible for free agency until 2018.
RHP Kevin Jepsen, acquired in December from the Angels, could be the most likely to go, with a solid 2.88 ERA and five saves in high leverage duty. He, too, is expected to jump past $5 million next season after making $3,025,000, and is eligible for free agency in 2017.
The Rays, as usual, are willing to talk about any player on their roster and will explore numerous potential deals, typically preferring to add younger talent.
ARCHED UP: All-Star ace RHP Chris Archer is starting tonight because he wanted to, preferring to stay on a five-day schedule even though the Rays had Thursday off. RHP Erasmo Ramirez moved back to Saturday.
"I just indirectly let (manager Kevin) Cash know that I'd like to pitch every five days as much as I possibly can just to impact the team while I'm feeling good," Archer said.
"There may come a point in the season where (injured LHP Drew) Smyly comes back and there's a lot of off-days in August and I might ask if I can get six days. But the All-Star break rejuvenated me and my body feels good. So I kind of said I can throw every fifth day, I don't need an extra day if it works out for the team."
MISCELLANY: Tonight marks the official launch of the Honor Pass program, in which the team is providing two free tickets to military personnel for all remaining home games. For more information, see raysbaseball.com/HonorPass. … Second-round draft pick C Chris Betts tweeted that he had his Tommy John right elbow surgery on Thursday. … How Smyly (shoulder) felt after a scheduled Thursday bullpen session will dictate whether he advances to start a rehab assignment. … FSU football coach Jimbo Fisher will throw out the first pitch Sunday.