Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays' Silverman expects to continue to be active in trade market

BOCA RATON — Matt Silverman insisted he didn't set out to make trades at such a frenetic pace, 13 in the 13 months since taking over as president of baseball operations, involving 45 major-league players.

It just happened that way.

"Last year at this time," he said Wednesday, "I didn't know if I'd make one."

But as Silverman slid over to replace Andrew Friedman, he found myriad reasons to constantly be working to making a deal.

And not just because he could.

But because he had to.

"The trade market is one of the few places where we can address needs and improve our organization," Silverman said at the GM meetings.

"We happen to have a very full and talented roster of players, and that lends itself to a greater volume of transactions. We're very engaged in dialogue with clubs, and we're focused on maximizing the talent of our roster and its flexibility."

There are other ways, of course.

But the Rays, ever mindful of the bottom line, don't usually dabble in the free agent market unless there is a bargain to be had late in the pre-spring shopping season, such as shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera last January.

And they rarely sign international players beyond teenaged prospects or draft players who can make a quick ascension to the majors.

Thus, trades are the most feasible option.

"It's hard for us to impact the club on an immediate level in a big way through free agency and internationally," Silverman said. "Free agency — we simply can't afford those players. Internationally or in the draft, it takes years for those results to bear fruit.

"So if we're looking for more immediate results, we can focus on the trade market. We might line up based on the difference of value, we might line up on a difference of timing where one club is looking to push more this year and we are comfortable taking back some combination of current and future value. There are a couple of different ways we can line up with a club and make a trade that is win-win."

Some of his deals were to create 40-man roster space, such as his first, sending lefty reliever Cesar Ramos to the Angels for a minor-leaguer, then later last offseason in shipping Sean Rodriguez to the Pirates.

Some were to dump players who were going to make more than the Rays wanted to pay — Jeremy Hellickson to the Diamondbacks, Joel Peralta to Friedman's Dodgers.

Some are to trade present contributions for future promise, such as Kevin Jepsen to the Twins in July for two prospects.

And some were actually designed to help the team on the field.

Silverman's biggest deal, a three-team, 11-player transaction last December, saw Wil Myers swapped out for Steven Souza Jr.

His first trade this offseason filled two holes, trading Nathan Karns from their depth of starting pitching to Seattle to get Brad Miller to play shortstop and Logan Morrison to add power.

As of today, the Rays don't have to do anything else, which is a position they like to be in. There are always spots they can upgrade, but they feel comfortable with the roster they have.

While they never deem any player untouchable, they're not looking to make a major shakeup by dealing or even soliciting interest in Evan Longoria.

The biggest key seems to be trading first baseman James Loney and his $8 million salary, which would free up at-bats and money and increase flexibility. If offered enough — obviously applicable in any conversation — they could be tempted to move one of their late-inning relievers, Brad Boxberger or Jake McGee, and plug from elsewhere in an always churning bullpen.

As Rays officials head home from the meetings today, nothing seemed imminent.

But just wait. The Nov. 20 cutoff is approaching to clear four-five spots for prospects on the 40-man roster. There is a Dec. 2 deadline looming to tender contracts, and having 12 arbitration-eligibles seems like too many. Teams overall are more willing to trade, in part because so many are under new management and without emotional attachments to existing inventory.

In other words, it is just a matter of time until Trader Matt strikes again.

Contact Marc Topkin at [email protected].

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