Besides the continual evolution of their intriguing pitching plan, the primary topics of conversation for the Rays over the next several weeks will be trades and prospects. And not mutually exclusively.
Some sooner than others, the Rays are going to clear out a number of veterans. C Wilson Ramos should bring a good return, and SS Adeiny Hechavarria — even though all teams know they need to trade him — at least something. This seems like the year they'd deal starter Chris Archer, if healthy, for a haul. OF Carlos Gomez and relievers Jonny Venters and Sergio Romo are likely to go one way or another to open roster space, maybe starter Nathan Eovaldi, too. If the offer is right, INFs Matt Duffy and reliever Chaz Roe also could be dealt.
And while the Rays have already brought up several promising prospects, such as INFs Willy Adames, Christian Arroyo and Jake Bauers, plus reliever Diego Castillo and OF Johnny Field, they have more coming. By the end of the season, you could see relievers Ian Gibaut, Colin Poche and Jaime Schultz; starter Andrew Moore; INFs Andrew Velazquez and Kean Wong; OFs Joe McCarthy (pending recovery form a back issue) and Justin Williams, maybe even C Nick Ciuffo.
The connection comes in the churn, as the Rays — love it or hate it — annually trade veterans for prospects. It's how they roll.
To see the results, just look at what's potentially the infield of the future.
Adames, Arroyo, Bauers and Daniel Robertson were all acquired as minor leaguers (Arroyo had some time with the Giants) of various levels of notoriety in deals for big-name veterans. (Of the prospects still coming, Poche, Moore, Velazquez and Williams also were acquired in trade.)
"It just speaks to the Rays and their development and being educated, that they knew who to go after at the time,'' Robertson said. "Now that we're all here hopefully it's going to pay off for a long time, so that's cool.''
Here's a look at the tracks of those trades:
Jake Bauers-Wil Myers
The deal: The Rays got Bauers from the Padres as a Class A minor-leaguer in December 2014 as part of the return in the three-team deal built around OF Myers (whom the Rays got as a blue-chip Triple-A prospect two years earlier in a big deal with the Royals built around James Shields and Wade Davis).
The details: Acquired with C Rene Rivera and RHP Burch Smith from San Diego along with OF Steven Souza Jr. and LHP Travis Ott from Washington for Myers, C Ryan Hanigan, LHP Jose Castillo, RHP Gerardo Reyes. The Nats got RHP Joe Ross and INF Trea Turner from the Padres.
The decision: For now, it's pretty much on Bauers. Rivera was released, Smith injured and then lost in the Rule 5 draft, Ott is a middle reliever at Double A. Souza became the key piece of the return (though the Rays regrettably gave up future star Turner, who will be at the Trop on Monday), playing three seasons with some success, earning team MVP honors last year. Then this spring, Souza was traded to Arizona for a package of prospects: LHP Anthony Banda (was in majors, now out for season), INF Nick Solak (Double-A All-Star), RHP Sam McWilliams (Double-A starter), Poche (Triple-A reliever).
Daniel Robertson – Ben Zobrist
The deal: The Rays got Robertson from the A's as a Class A minor-leaguer in January 2015 as part of the return in a deal built around longtime star INF/OF Zobrist (whom the Rays got as a Double-A players in July 2006 as part of the return, along with RHP Mitch Talbot, in a salary dump deal of Aubrey Huff).
The details: Acquired with C/DH John Jaso, OF Boog Powell and cash from Oakland for Zobrist and SS Yunel Escobar.
The decision: Robertson was the key piece once the Rays decided to deal and not re-sign Zobrist, and could dump the unwanted Escobar into the deal. Jaso got hurt opening day 2015, missed three months and left as a free agent, though he went on to play two more seasons for Pittsburgh. Powell was flipped to Seattle in another deal and has twice been suspended for PEDs but made it to the majors.
Willy Adames-David Price
The deal: The Rays got Adames from the Tigers as a Class A minor-leaguer in July 2014 as part of the return in a deadline deal for LHP Price, the 2012 Cy Young Award winner.
The details: Acquired with LHP Drew Smyly from Detroit, along with INF Nick Franklin from Seattle, for Price. Seattle also got OF Austin Jackson.
The decision: Former Tigers/now Red Sox GM Dave Dombrowski said they didn't want to deal Adames, a 2012 international signee, but knew the Rays wouldn't do the deal with them otherwise. Franklin never arrived as promised, Smyly after three injury-marred seasons was traded to Seattle for more prospects — OF Mallex Smith and LHP Ryan Yarbrough (who are in the majors now), INF Carlos Vargas (playing at rookie-level Princeton).
Christian Arroyo-Evan Longoria
The deal: The Rays got Arroyo from the Giants as a Triple-A player with some big-league time in December 2017 as part of the return in a deal for face-of-the-franchise 3B Longoria.
The details: Acquired with OF Denard Span, LHP Matt Krook, RHP Stephen Woods from San Francisco for Longoria and cash.
The decision: Getting out from under the bulk of the $86 million still owed Longoria was the key, with Arroyo, a local product the Rays have had interest in. considered the key part of the return, though there is some positional uncertainty — second, third, utility. (He is currently on the DL after playing 21 games). Krook is a reliever at Double-A, Woods on the Class A DL. Span, who was foisted on the Rays with $13 million due, was going to be flipped, and was last month with (with Alex Colome) to Seattle, getting back, you got it, more prospects: RHP Andrew Moore (starting at Triple A) and RHP Tommy Romero (starting at Class A).
There was some surprise when the Rays passed on promoting longtime bench coach Dave Martinez to succeed manager Joe Maddon in 2015 and hired Kevin Cash. But it worked out for all, as Cash has been praised often by his bosses and Martinez won a ring on Maddon's Cubs staff and now is managing the Nationals, who visit Monday. There should be a warm welcome for Martinez, who spent three years as a Rays player (logging the first hit in franchise history, so there's your video clip for the tribute) and eight as a coach.
Not wanting to give away SS Adeiny Hechavarria and/or eat his remaining $3.2 million is understandable. But given the vexing roster jam the Rays knew was coming with Willy Adames' mid-June promotion, it's easy (and maybe unfair) to say the Rays should have been proactive and traded Hechavarria when he was playing well (and before he got hurt) in mid-May.
Is singer Marc Anthony now the biggest name ever to see a game at the Trop? Bigger than Chris Rock? Or Kate Upton? … Did MLB not see the marketing value in bringing Evan Longoria and the Giants to the Trop next year? … It's kind of cool, and a better show, having the Sun Sports pre- and postgame crew on the road rather than in their Fort Lauderdale studio. … Jim Bowden of the Athletic suggests the Rays trade LHP Blake Snell to the Yankees for prospects OF Clint Frazier, LHP Justus Sheffield, RHP Erik Swanson. … Totally spitballin' here, but will Kevin Cash's name come up as candidate for the Florida State job when Mike Martin retires after next season? … Traded INF Brad Miller joined the Brewers Saturday after hitting .185 in eight games at Triple A, and making three errors in six games at shortstop. … Former manager Lou Piniella had a good line last week, saying "(Joe) Maddon has basically benefitted from following me" as manager of the Rays and (with a couple in between) Cubs. Piniella, 74, is looking forward to being back in a Rays uniform for an Aug. 11 corporate sponsor event. … OF Nick Schnell, the Rays' third pick in the June draft, was named first-team All-American by Baseball America, and top pick LHP Matt Liberatore was a second-team selection. … Washington's Bryce Harper returns this week to the Trop, where as a high schooler in a 2009 home run derby he hit a legendary 502-foot blast with a metal bat. … With two straight blown saves and a velocity drop into the mid 80s after three straight days of work, ex-Ray Brad Boxberger could be losing his grip on Arizona's closer's job.