The most important Ray over the next two weeks might not be Evan Longoria or Chris Archer or Kevin Kiermaier but Matt Silverman.
Trade talks are going to be the primary topic around the Rays given the combination of their bad record and good talent. What Silverman, as president of baseball operations, decides to do — or not do — by Aug. 1 likely will have more impact on the franchise than anything any of the players do on the field.
The Rays figure to be involved in as many trade rumors as any team — and will say the least about them — just based on supply and demand, as they have starting pitchers to deal and there's a long list of contenders in need. Matt Moore, Jake Odorizzi, Drew Smyly and, though it would take a huge deal, have all been asked about, as has Erasmo Ramirez.
Add in some position players (led by Steve Pearce), bullpen arms, extra outfielders and stalled prospects, and they have a lot to talk about. Two keys typically are getting back controllable young players (not veterans) and young pitching when they deal starters.
How good should Rays fans feel about Silverman shaping their future? He has made 16 deals involving big-leaguers — some for talent, some to clear roster space and money — since taking over for Andrew Friedman in October 2014. While some can be judged now, others require waiting until prospects mature.
Here is a breakdown:
Top of the list
The Myers-Souza Swap
December 2014, with Padres and Nats
Traded to Padres: OF Wil Myers, C Ryan Hanigan and minor-leaguers LHP Jose Castillo, RHP Gerardo Reyes
Got: 1B Jake Bauers, RHP Joe Ross, C Rene Rivera, RHP Burch Smith, INF Trea Turner (technically a player to be named at the time)
Traded to Nats: Ross, Turner
Got: LHP Travis Ott, OF Steven Souza Jr.
Analysis: Whether it turns out to be a bust as it looks now remains to be seen, but Silverman's brassiest trade so far was the three-team, 11-player deal that undid some previous big deals, specifically in giving up — and giving up on — 2013 AL rookie of the year Myers, then flipping two valuable parts of the return to Washington for Souza. When Myers struggled last year and Souza showed flashes of impact, it looked like it might be a good debate over who was better. But with Myers playing like an All-Star this year and Souza remaining inconsistent, it doesn't look too good. Plus, Ross has been good for the Nationals and Turner looks like he might be a future star. Rivera was let got after one season, and Smith got hurt, which makes Bauers — who has been impressive at Double A and pushing for another promotion — the key to the Rays salvation.
Other big deals
November 2014, with Diamondbacks
Traded: RHP Jeremy Hellickson
Got: INF Andrew Velasquez, OF Justin Williams
Analysis: The Rays weren't going to pay Hellickson $4 million plus, so Silverman struck an early offseason deal for a pair of young prospects. Both still are at Class A, with Williams showing more promise.
The Jepsen deals
December 2014, with Angels
Traded: OF Matt Joyce
Got: RHP Kevin Jepsen
July 2015, with Twins
Got: RHP Chih-Wei Hu and RHP Alexis Tapia
Analysis: Getting Jepsen seemed like a decent return for Joyce, who was coming off a poor season and due to make nearly $5 million, and was even worse for the Angels (though is really good this year in Pittsburgh). Trading Jepsen for two low-level prospects when the Rays were still in the wild-card race didn't go over well in the clubhouse at the time. But Hu has turned into a potential quality starter, excelling at Double-A Montgomery and wowing scouts in the All-Star Futures Game, and he could prove to be worth much more over the years than the other two months of Jepsen. (Plus, the Rays now have Jepsen back as he was released by the Twins.)
Yo, Zo ...
January 2015, with A's
Traded: INF Yunel Escobar, INF/OF Ben Zobrist
Got: DH John Jaso, OF Boog Powell, SS Daniel Robertson
Analysis: Figuring they wouldn't re-sign Zobrist after the season (he got $56 million over four years) and not wanting to gamble on his value by waiting until the trade deadline, Silverman made a preemptive strike and got to dump Escobar in the process. But Jaso missed much of the year with injury and was let go after one year as a free agent, and Powell was traded, ahead of his second PEDs suspension. So the scale depends on Robertson, who is having an okay first season at Triple A but is behind Willy Adames on the shortstop prospect tier.
November 2015, with Mariners
Traded: RHP Nathan Karns, OF Boog Powell, LHP C.J. Riefenhauser
Got: RHP Danny Farquhar, SS Brad Miller, 1B Logan Morrison
Analysis: Kind of a classic Rays move, selling a bit high on Karns, who wasn't going to fit in their plans anyway, and taking a flyer on two players with flaws — Miller and Morrison — in hopes they hit it big and boost the offense. With Karns being demoted to the Seattle bullpen, the Rays probably "won" the trade. But if Miller doesn't stay at shortstop, his impact is diminished, and if Morrison is one-and-done as a pending free agent, did they really? Farquhar hasn't done much to impact the conversation.
Seeking offense, part II
January 2016, with Rockies
Traded: RHP German Marquez, LHP Jake McGee
Got: OF Corey Dickerson, INF Kevin Padlo
Analysis: Taking McGee out of the bullpen hurt, even more so with Brad Boxberger injured, but in Dickerson they saw the chance to add an impact power bat at low cost. Basically it was a matter of dollars and sense, swapping two years of McGee at high expense ($4.8M this year) and injury risk (one DL stint this year) for four years of Dickerson, starting cheap (arbitration eligible for the first time in 2017). Both minor-leaguers have done okay, Marquez is more advanced.
November 2014: Traded LHP Cesar Ramos to Angels for minor-league RHP Mark Sappington
November 2014: Traded LHP Adam Liberatore and RHP Joel Peralta to Dodgers for RHP Jose Dominguez and minor-league RHP Greg Harris
December 2014: Traded INF Sean Rodriguez to Pirates for minor-league RHP Buddy Borden
March 2015: Traded LHP Mike Montgomery to Mariners for RHP Erasmo Ramirez
April 2015: Got LHP Xavier Cedeno from Dodgers for cash
June 2015: Traded minor-league RHP Kyle Winkler to Angels for 1B Marc Krauss
July 2015: Traded OF David DeJesus to Angels for minor-league RHP Eduar Lopez
December 2015: Got C Hank Conger from Astros for cash
June 2016: Got OF Oswaldo Arcia from Twins for cash
Analysis: Liberatore, somewhat surprisingly, looks to be the one that got away, as he has turned out to be pretty good. Ramirez and Cedeno have been strong low-cost additions, Arcia has a chance to be.
• The Rays don't seem to have any real interest in trading franchise cornerstone 3B Evan Longoria. But if they eventually do, one thing to keep in mind is that in April 2018 he gets 10-and-5 rights (10 years in the majors, 5 with same team), which means he essentially gets a no-trade clause.
• Of all the teams heavily scouting the Rays starters, including RHP Chris Archer, the most intriguing could be the Pirates, who have the depth — and possibly the desperation — to make a huge deal. Also, the Astros.
So how does a hyperactive Kevin Kiermaier try to pass the time during seven weeks on the DL? Netflix and saltwater fishing. … Given he has only five at-bats in the past 12 games (through Friday), why exactly is INF Tim Beckham on the roster? … The Rays ended up signing 30 of their 41 draft picks, with 11th-round LHP Zach Thompson the highest to get away. … Promoting 2014 first-round pick 1B Casey Gillaspie to Triple A last week is another sign of a more aggressive posture under Matt Silverman's regime, and it cuts into playing time for Richie Shaffer, already having a down year. … SS Willy Adames was 28th on ESPN's Keith Law's midseason revise of the game's top 50 prospects.
Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected] Follow @ TBTimes_Rays.