A Bold Offseason Move For The Blue Jays And Their AL East Rivals
I was having a hard time trying to put together a potential move for the Tampa Bay Rays to make once the offseason resumes. They’re a small market team that marches to the beat of their own drum. Combining this with the limited amount of rumours surrounding any potential moves they could be working on makes it hard to predict which direction they may be headed in.
The Rays also have one of the better rosters in baseball. They have a really underrated rotation, with a couple of young studs in Luis Patino, Shane Baz and Tyler Glasnow (when he recovers from Tommy John surgery). They also feature great depth in their outfield, with four starting caliber players and have a fantastic middle infield as well, with an All Star in Brandon Lowe and one of the brightest young stars in all of baseball in the form of Wander Franco. The Rays have quality players at almost every position on the diamond, making it hard to pinpoint a major need that has the potential to be filled once the offseason resumes.
The only real hole the Rays possess is at third base. Joey Wendle primarily maned the hot corner last season, but was dealt to the Marlins back in November. Brandon Lowe and Yandy Diaz also saw a bit of time at third, but Lowe profiles much better as a second baseman and Diaz is better suited in a platoon role at first with Ji Man Choi. The Rays could really use an everyday third baseman, and though it would be an uncharacteristic move, I believe that they are the team best positioned to land the top target on the market in Jose Ramirez.
Bringing Ramirez into the fold would be a very uncharacteristic move for the Rays organization. They’re never in the market for super star caliber players due to their minuscule budget and are always looking for bargain deals on both the trade and free agent markets. Ramirez is a unique case though, as he’s on a very team-friendly deal, slated to make a mere 26 million dollars over the next two seasons.
This would still be the largest contract on the Rays payroll, on an annual average basis, but with how talented of a player the three-time MVP finalist is, I have to believe that General Manager Erik Neander would be able to make a couple of moves to help with the teams finances. Neander could trade a Mike Zunino, and his seven million dollars, or Ryan Yarbrough and his projected 4.6 million to create some payroll flexibility, and make the Ramirez addition more affordable.
The Rays also have the trade pieces to get this deal done, as they possess one of the best farm systems in all of baseball, with plenty of high end talent and depth within it. It’s been reported that the Guardians want controllable, Major League talent in return for Ramirez, as they would still like to present the illusion of competitiveness next season. The Rays could send Vidal Brujan, a 23 year old switch hitting shortstop, (ranked 21st on MLB PipeLines Top 100 list), that played a full season at triple A last year to the Guardians and not miss his presences due to the fact he’s blocked at the big league level by Franco and Lowe.
The same would apply for Josh Lowe (the 73rd ranked prospect per Pipeline), a 24 year old power corner outfielder that hit .290, with 23 long long balls in just 111 triple A games last season. This is another young, highly regarded player in Tampa Bay’s organization that is going to have difficult time finding regular at-bats in the big leagues due to the clubs phenomenal outfield depth.
Along with Brujan and Lowe, the Rays could add a player like 20 year old Taj Bradley (Tampa’s # 6 prospect), who posted a 1.83 ERA in over 100 innings in A ball last season, or Carson Williams (Tampa’s #10 prospect), their first round pick in last year draft as “throw ins” to further entice Cleveland to pull the trigger, and deal the face of their franchise.
The Rays have the ability to send two big league ready, top 100 prospects, plus other highly regarded assets to the Guardians and not miss a beat, do to the immense amount of talent on their big league roster and in their farm system. No other team has this luxury, and could provide the Rays with an easy path to one of the best players in baseball if they chose to move in that direction
The Rays have found sustained success over the last decade due to their ability to find value in bargain players. The thought of them adding a legitimate superstar in Jose Ramirez is quite frankly terrifying, and would be horrendous news for the rest of the AL East. It would undoubtedly be an uncharacteristic move, but Ramirez is a unique trade piece, due to his age, control and team-friendly salary.
If Tampa Bay ever plans to use some of the wealth in their farm system to acquire big league talent, this seems to be the perfect time for that to happen. Ramirez would arguably be the best player to ever wear a Rays uniform, and would create one of the best duos in baseball with Wander Franco, that could help the Rays finally get over the top, and claim their first World Series in franchise history.