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Tampa Bay Rays hot topics: Arms to be dealt

Expect the Rays to deal a starter this winter, because that's what they do. Chris Archer or Jake Odorizzi are most likely to go. Or both.
Chris Archer had a rough September to finish the 2017 season. [WILL VRAGOVIC / Tampa Bay Times]
Chris Archer had a rough September to finish the 2017 season. [WILL VRAGOVIC / Tampa Bay Times]
Published Dec. 5, 2017

    We don't know what moves the Rays will make this off-season, just that there will be some big ones as they look to cut payroll and decide whether to try to remain competitive or go for a rebuild. With the annual winter meetings next week at Disney, we are looking today at some of their hottest topics:

The Rays are going to trade a starting pitcher this off-season.

It's what they do.

Look back at their history during the Stuart Sternberg ownership at the at-the-time frontline starting pitchers they've dealt:

Edwin Jackson (to Tigers, for Matt Joyce, December 2008)

  Jason Hammel (to Rockies, for Aneury Rodriguez, April 2009)

      Scott Kazmir (to Angels, for Sean Rodriguez, Alex Torres and a minor-leaguer, August 2009)

   Matt Garza (to Cubs, for Sam Fuld, prospects Chris Archer, Robinson Chirinos, Brandon Guyer, Hak-Ju Lee, January 2011)

James Shields (to Royals, with Wade Davis, for Jake Odorizzi, prospect Wil Myers, two minor-leaguers, December 2012)

       David Price (to Tigers, for Drew Smyly, prospect Willy Adames, Nick Franklin via Seattle, July 2014)

Jeremy Hellickson (to D-backs, for prospects Andrew Velazquez, Justin Williams, November 2014)

Nathan Karns (to Mariners, with two minor-leaguers, for Danny Farquhar, Brad Miller, Logan Morrison, November 2015)

Matt Moore (to Giants, for Matt Duffy, prospect Lucius Fox  and a minor-leaguer, August 2016)

Drew Smyly (to Mariners, for Mallex Smith, prospect Ryan Yarbrough and a minor-leaguer), January 2017

    Erasmo Ramirez (to Mariners, for Steve Cishek, July 2017)

So really the only question is which one gets dealt this time, with it likely coming down to Chris Archer or Jake Odorizzi. (Or, if they go for a total rebuild, maybe both).

Archer, 29, is going to bring the higher return given his high-end stuff, sexy strikeout totals, more impressive resume with two All-Star appearances, and a team-friendly contract that, including two option years, pays him $33.75-million over the next four seasons. The Cubs, Braves and Rangers have been long rumored to have interest, and many others will. But the same elements that make him appealing in trade are reasons for the Rays to keep him, plus his value may be down a bit coming off a rough September that started with a start abbreviated due to forearm tightness as he went 1-5, 7.48 in six September starts.

Odorizzi, 27, isn't as flashy, had some injury issues of his own in 2017 and comes with only two years of control before free-agency. So while there is not as much upside as in dealing for Archer, there is also less downside. Though his projected $6.5-million salary is a bit steep for the Rays, that's a bargain for most teams for a mid-rotation starter, and there's the potential to sign him long-term. The Cardinals and Twins have been mentioned among those having interest. Plus, some will find Odorizzi's career numbers more appealing: 40-38, 3.83 in 129 games covering 705 1/3 innings vs. Archer's 51-63, 3.63 in 162 games covering 967 innings.

Either way, they are armed to deal.