NASHVILLE — Interest in Tyler Glasnow remains strong from multiple teams, and if the Rays are going to trade the starting pitcher and his $25 million salary there is legitimate potential for the framework of a deal to be in place during this week’s winter meetings or shortly thereafter.
But as for reports and rumors of the Rays looking to trade All-Star outfielder Randy Arozarena, breakout infielder Isaac Paredes or other key position players?
Not so much.
“I would very much classify anything as listening,” baseball operations president Erik Neander said Monday afternoon in the team suite.
There is some semantics, and probably some gray area, between the two. But Neander indicated a clear distinction between actively shopping a player and what they consider a matter of standard procedure of being open to responding to inquiries and seeing where talks may lead.
Without naming names, he said the Rays like the guys that were big parts of the group that won 99 games last season and set multiple team offensive records.
“We recognize where our team is competitively — we’d prefer deeper postseason runs — but you need really good players to have a chance to get in and from there to take you wherever they take you,” Neander said. “I think we recognize and appreciate the talent we have. And, like I said, if we roll this thing forward (with the roster relatively intact), we’re open to doing it.
“That’s what happened last year, right? I think there were a lot of players that were talked about as possibilities to move, and we ended up doing nothing. I think a lot of it — we felt pretty good about that unit. It’s similar.”
Second baseman Brandon Lowe, who lives near the meetings hotel and visited Monday with family and friends, said the players are used to the speculation.
“It’s one of those ‘cannot control it’ situations,” Lowe said. “I think it’s very Rays-esque to (have) every name on the trading block. I don’t know if there’s anybody that’s safe and anybody that’s tucked away in a corner.”
If the Rays decide to make changes, trades will be the first avenue as they have 39 players and limited flexibility on their 40-man roster. Improvement could come either by adding big league-ready players in the deals or opening space by acquiring prospects and adding free agents.
Outfielder Manuel Margot and designated hitter Harold Ramirez are two players who could be dealt without significantly diminishing the roster and create more playing time for some rising younger players.
“We don’t have to force anything; that’s a good position to be in. …” Neander said. “But we also have players coming up. You saw Curtis Mead on our postseason roster, (Junior) Caminero. You see some young players that are forcing their way through, and that just gives you stuff to think about.
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“What ultimately does that mean and where does it take it? I don’t know. We don’t have to do anything, but it puts us in a position where we can be active listeners and decide if anything’s best for us not only next year but beyond.”
The Glasnow decision is a bit different, as he is due a team-record $25 million salary that would push the 2024 payroll to a by-far franchise high in excess of $125 million.
“Nobody on the team wants to trade Glasnow; I don’t think Erik wants to trade Glasnow,” Lowe said. “That type of arm, that type of talent, it’s hard to come by. But if it does happen, you know that the people that we get back in return are either big-league ready or about to be and they have a real chance to come and help us in the future. You put that faith in Erik and that trust in the front office.”
As the Rays sift through interest from the Cubs, Reds and roughly a dozen other teams, they are playing on both sides of what has been an active — and expensive — market, as they would need to acquire a starter to replace Glasnow.
“That’s the part of the market that seems to be running pretty quickly,” Neander said. “Everything else is a bit slower to develop.”
But as for specific progress on deals, especially given reports of the Mariners among “multiple teams” interested in Arozarena and, along with the Blue Jays, in Paredes?
“Nothing terribly notable,” Neander said.
He said they used the first full day of the meetings to talk as a staff and with some agents and other teams. But also to celebrate senior advisor Mitch Lukevics’ 70th birthday (with a full fiery complement of candles on the cake) and dig up fun facts on special assistant Bobby Heck, who Wednesday will receive the industry-wide East Coast Scout of the Year award.
But, Neander reminded, that can change quickly: “You’re always a call away.”
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