Tampa Bay Rays may be considering trades of several prominent players

The Rays have a lot of pending decisions, such as whether to offer arbitration to free-agent reliever Dan Wheeler to get the draft picks if he signs elsewhere and whether to offer a contract to arbitration-eligible Dan Johnson to keep him part of the 1B/DH mix. Eventually — when the free-agent prices become more reasonable — they hope to pick among some hitters and relievers to bolster their depleted roster.

But there are some bigger-picture big-name questions that have at least been rumored, if not yet officially discussed.

Trade B.J. Upton?

Sure, there are reasons: He underachieved yet again, his salary's headed past $4 million, he's unlikely to stay past 2012 as he hits free agency.

But, there are pretty good reasons to keep him. One, since his trade value is low due to his performance, it's better to wait another season (or a half season) to see if he finally puts it together and at least get the return on the back end.

Two, he was one of only two big-leaguers with 60 extra-base hits and 40 stolen bases last season, and the Rays are already losing the other, Carl Crawford. Given Upton's strong centerfield defense, a deal creates a second huge hole in their lineup.

Gut feeling: Upton stays, is traded next offseason.

Trade Jason Bartlett?

This can be looked at on the bottom line and between the lines.

Even after a so-so season, Bartlett is headed past $5 million in his final year before free agency, so there's appeal for the Rays — with about $40 million committed to 20 or so players — to deal him and apply that money elsewhere.

But that's only if they feel good about Reid Brignac being ready to take over. Brignac has shown flashes, and it would seem to be only a matter of time.

With several teams looking for shortstops (Cardinals, Giants, Orioles), the Rays could be in a position to make their kind of deal, trading from depth to fill a need, such as a young reliever they could keep for several years.

Gut feeling: Bartlett's gone before spring training.

Trade James Shields, Matt Garza, Jeff Niemann or Wade Davis?

All four names have come up in some rumor somewhere as the Rays, with David Price and Jeremy Hellickson, appear the rare team with starting pitching to spare. And obviously in the case of Shields ($4.25 million) or Garza (around $6 million in arbitration), there's the potential for significant cost savings.

But with a crop of top pitching prospects not quite ready, the Rays have little available depth. If they made a trade and had injury issues, they'd suddenly be scrambling. And as bare as their bullpen may be, it wouldn't be the worst thing if they got to the spring and moved one of the starters to relief. Plus, both Garza and Shields could do much to enhance their trade value.

Gut feeling: No deals until July — unless the offers get crazy good after Cliff Lee's signing.

RAYS RUMBLINGS: Classy move by RHP Joaquin Benoit to open the conference call announcing his three-year, $16.5 million deal with the Tigers by thanking the Rays for the opportunity to pitch in 2010. Then again, he should have. … It will be interesting to see which Ray gets more votes when the AL MVP award is announced Tuesday: Crawford or Evan Longoria. … With the tarps extended to cover another 2,500 seats and create a "more intimate" feel, Trop capacity will be a major-league low of around 34,500. … Finishing second in the AL Cy Young voting wasn't all bad for Price: He earned an $80,000 bonus. … One Cy voter, John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press, said a factor was that Price didn't pitch as deep into games as winner Felix Hernandez.

Tampa Bay Rays may be considering trades of several prominent players 11/20/10 [Last modified: Saturday, November 20, 2010 8:50pm]

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