Buyer or Seller?
All Tampa had to do was exorcise the Devil. Although smarter baseball decisions and being the beneficiaries of a never-ending parade of minor league prospects led to success in St. Petersburg, one cannot help but notice the coincidence of the team becoming winners ever since they changed their team name from “Devil Rays” to simply “Rays.”
That success has continued this year in the hellish AL East as they find themselves battling the Boston Red Sox both for the division lead and the best record in the American League, while trying to fend off the Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees. Despite trading away top starter James Shields, they have not missed a beat this year and find themselves looking to add some reinforcements for the rest of the season and the playoffs. But, where can they still improve?
What They Need
At the beginning of the season, it looked like the Rays made an absolute steal in picking up Roberto Hernandez (the former “Faux-sto” Carmona) in free agency, but his numbers have regressed to the point that he now has a high-4 ERA. A similar story is Jeremy Hellickson, who had beaten his peripheral numbers in his first two full seasons, but is now underperforming those numbers as he has a 4.62 ERA but a 3.84 FIP.
One reinforcement is for Alex Cobb to return as he was one of their best pitchers prior to getting hit in the head with a line drive from Eric Hosmer on June 15th
. Cobb suffered a concussion and is eying a return in August, but us Twins fans know that concussions can be finicky. If Cobb is unable to return and youngster Chris Archer starts to fade towards the end of the season, the Rays might be interested in a veteran starting pitcher.
It seems like every playoff team always could use one more arm in the bullpen. With the exception of Alex Torres (who is having one hell of a season thus far), the Rays don’t have a shutdown reliever in the ‘pen. Jamey Wright is pitching well, but this is out of the ordinary for him. Fernando Rodney, a year removed from his record-setting season last year, has returned to the pitcher we know and love as his ERA is hovering around 4 as the closer for the Rays. They do have a solid setup reliever in Joel Peralta, and the supporting cast has actually pitched pretty well in spite of their ERAs. A savvy organization like the Rays could point to that as a reason to stick with what they have, but one could also argue that they might not trust Rodney as the closer and would look for an upgrade. Plus, as I first said, a playoff team seemingly always could use one more reliever, so perhaps they’d like a cheaper setup man instead.
This one is a little tricky and I could actually be swayed to believe that this really isn’t a need. The Rays are pretty solid across the board with their position players, and the only position that is debatable is catcher. Right now, Jose Lobaton and Jose Molina have split the catching duties evenly this season. Lobaton’s offense has been perfectly acceptable as catcher, and while Molina’s offense is closer to what you’d expect in a backup catcher, his defense is highly regarded, especially in pitch framing. I could see the Rays arguing that they are content with Lobaton’s offense and Molina’s defense, but the Twins do have a player that could present an upgrade. No, it’s not Joe Mauer, get your head out of the sand.
What Might Work
With Roberto Hernandez struggling, his rotation spot is the easy choice to replace. This could be Alex Cobb, but if he’s not fully recovered from his concussion, this may be a case where the Rays could look towards the Twins’ Kevin Correia, Mike Pelfrey, or even Samuel Deduno. But, would they consider replacing Roberto Hernandez with Deduno, who is a similar pitcher?
This is pretty much the usual suspects you’d expect the Twins to shop around from their bullpen: Casey Fien, Jared Burton, and Glen Perkins. If the Rays feel like targeting an undervalued asset, then we could probably toss in Brian Duensing as well to team up with fellow lefties Jake McGee and Cesar Ramos.
My suggestion here is that Ryan Doumit is a possibility, but he isn’t hitting well this year and his defense at catcher is a liability. Although he does have some positional flexibility with playing the outfield, the Rays are set with Wil Myers, Matt Joyce, Ben Zobrist, and Kelly Johnson covering the corners. Plus, as I mentioned before, they may just be content with their timeshare of Joses Lobaton & Molina and think that Doumit’s overall value won’t be an improvement.
Most of the Rays’ middle range prospects are either outfielders or pitchers, and the Twins seem set on the outfield for eternity, so I specifically looked at starting pitchers they could target.
SP Blake Snell (Low-A)
Snell is a 20-year old left-handed pitcher that was just drafted in 2011 from Shorewood HS in Washington. He has a low-90s fastball as part of the standard 4-pitch mix (fastball, slider, curve, change-up) and reportedly will throw his breaking balls with different tilts. He has struggled with his control in Single-A this year (6.32 BB/9) so he represents quite a bit of risk, but his change-up and slider are projected to be above-average pitches. He will be a bit of a project and won’t be expected to debut in the majors for a few more years, but he could be another starting pitcher to look forward to in the next couple seasons.
SP Felipe Rivero (High-A)
Rivero is another lefthander that is 22 years old from Venezuela. He features a low-90s fastball with good command, a quality curveball and a change-up. However, he is very small (6’0”, 150 lbs.) and thus a full workload as a starting pitcher is a real concern. Also, his strikeouts have already been dropping significantly in the low minors, so he might end up being another pitch-to-contact hurler. He has a good chance of becoming a reliever, so Rivero may be the return for a lesser value Twin, such as Correia or Pelfrey.
SP Alex Colome (Triple-A / Majors)
Colome is a 24-year old righthander from the Dominican Republic. He features the best fastball out of these three pitchers as it can touch the mid-90s, and he also mixes in a potentially above-average curveball and a cutter/slider hybrid pitch. Colome has already made 3 starts for Tampa Bay this season, so he could appeal to the Twins as a major league ready starting pitcher. As you might expect from a pitcher with a big arm, Colome has control issues so walks will definitely be a problem. He could end up as a late inning reliever, but certainly the Twins would give him plenty of chances to stick as a starter before putting him on the Glen Perkins track (not to say he’d become as dominant as Perkins).
SP Chris Archer (Triple-A / Majors)
I see Chris Archer and can’t help but think that he’s a better version of Alex Colome. Another 24-year old, Archer also has a mid-90s fastball and 2-seamer and backs those up with an excellent slider (Archer’s is discussed as the best secondary offering from a prospect) and a developing change-up. He does have the ability to rack up strikeouts with those two pitches, but his change-up and control will likely be the determining factor if he can stick in the majors as a starter or if he is destined to become a reliever. Adding Archer to the Twins’ future plans would make him a nice piece to team up with Alex Meyer, Trevor May, and Kyle Gibson in the rotation for the next few years.