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Hellickson in play?

According to Joel Sherman (via Twitter) of the New York Post, the Rays are “moving toward” trading Jeremy Hellickson to a National League team.

The 27-year-old right-hander began this past season on the disabled list while recovering from elbow surgery to “remove loose bodies” from his right elbow.  Hellickson, who earned 2011 American League Rookie of the Year honors, went 1-5 with a 4.52 ERA in 13 starts this season.

If the season began today, the Rays would have Hellickson, Alex Cobb, Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi, Drew Smyly, Nathan Karns and Alex Colome to chose from for their rotation with Matt Moore due back around June.  Of that group, Hellickson will make the most money and he is headed for arbitration.

–Bill Chastain

Price Still With Rays

David Price remains a Ray on Tuesday morning and he’s scheduled to pitch Wednesday afternoon against the Brewers, a day before Major League Baseball’s trade deadline.

In random conversations Monday night at Tropicana Field, several scouts expressed the opinion that the Rays ace will remain with the team for the rest of the season.  One noted that unless the Rays get blown away in a deal, they would likely be well served to keep him since he still will have great value after the season.

Of note, veteran lefty Erik Bedard was designated for assignment Monday, which means the Rays would need to find a starter for Wednesday if Price were to be traded, or bumped while talks about a trade took place.  If that were to happen, it’s likely right-hander Alex Colome would get recalled from Triple-A Durham to make the start.  Long-man Cesar Ramos has also seen work as a starter this season and could be another option.

–Bill Chastain

Interest in Zobrist

While most of the trade rumors involving Rays players revolve around David Price, versatile Ben Zobrist has been another name drawing interest.

The latest rumor involving Zobrist comes from FOX Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi (Twitter links), who reported that the Giants are one of “multiple teams” who are “ready to act” in the event that the Rays decide to trade Zobrist.

With Thursday’s trade deadline looming, the Rays are not tipping their hand regarding their intentions for the remainder of the season.  Though the Rays enter Monday’s action 7 1/2 games behind the Orioles in the AL East, they are very much in the hunt for a Wild Card slot.  Thus, the team is in an interesting position when considering any possible changes to the team.

–Bill Chastain



Down to the Wire with Price

David Price starts tonight for the Rays when they open a three-game series against the Red Sox at Tropicana Field.  With the non-waiver trade deadline looming, everyone again is wondering if this will be Price’s last start wearing a Rays uniform.

For the Rays it’s a tough call. They are in the AL Wild Card race and even have a remote chance at winning the AL East.  Without Price, the odds of reaching the postseason would be diminished.  However, if they don’t trade Price — and wait until after the season — his value would be diminished  by 30 to 40 percent according to what one baseball executive that told’s Jayson Stark.  Another executive told Stark: “They’ve really built their team by making these kinds of deals. But if the return they can get now is something they think they can get this winter, they’ll hold him.”

Thus, speculation about Price’s fate — and other Rays such as Ben Zobrist, Jeremy Hellickson, Yunel Escobar and Matt Joyce — should ramp up a notch in the coming days. 

On the flip side, there is the possibility the Rays could become buyers instead of sellers if they really believe they have a chance to make a run.  They could use a bullpen piece or another bat.  Based on how the team has operated in the past, a bullpen piece would likely be added after the deadline.  And once Wil Myers heals, his return could be equal — and potentially much better — than a trade for another bat.

This weekend’s series with the Red Sox could go a long way toward shaping David Price’s future and that of the Rays.

–Bill Chastain

Rays in no rush to deal Price

The good news for Rays fans is that the Rays are on a hot streak and have moved to within 7 1/2 games of first place in the American League East. The bad news is that there still are four teams in front of them.

Thus, the fate of David Price remains in question.  At the very least, it’s fair to speculate that the Rays will wait until the July 31 trade deadline to make a move.  By doing so they can see where they stand at that point.  Joel Sherman of the New York Post quotes an quoted an executive, who spoke about the Rays’ situation by saying: “I think they take it down to the wire.  That allows them to make sure they know who they are while making a couple teams sweat to the end that one of their competitors are going to get him. … It wouldn’t surprise me if Price actually ends up a July 31 decision.”

–Bill Chastain

Rays Rumors will Pick Up

Tampa Bay begins the second half tonight against Minnesota, they are 9 1/2 games behind first-place Baltimore in the AL East.  If that margin grows, look for the David Price rumors to escalate, along with the rumors about other players.  Take the report by Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, who says the Mariners are more interested in Ben Zobrist than Price right now.

More such reports and rumors will flood media outlets if indeed the Rays go on a losing skid out of the gate for their final stretch.

But consider this:  The Rays ended the first half on a high note, fueling hopes that the team can get back into their division race against AL East teams of lesser quality than what we’ve seen in past seasons.  The Rays have never backed away from the fact they like the team they put together, and that the odds were low that said team could be as underachieving as it has been to date.  Given that sentiment, if the club shows any kind of pulse to begin the second half, it’s hard to think they will be sellers.

On top of that, the Rays have always maintained they strive to improve their team daily on a year-round basis.  Adhering to that philosophy means they feel no pressure to make things happen by certain deadlines.

One thing is certain, Price has seemingly figured out how to deal with the distractions created by trade rumors.  He is pitching better than ever and will make his first start of the second half on Saturday night in Minnesota.  Meanwhile, the Orioles begin the second half at Oakland, always a difficult place to play.  The standings could shuffle in a hurry.

Then again, the Rays have a tall mountain to climb in order to play significant games in September.

–Bill Chastain

Will He Stay or Will He Go?

David Price starts for the Rays tonight and the crowd behind homeplate at Yankee Stadium will be enhanced by the presence of opposing scouts.  The Rays lefty is this year’s trade prize. The question is: Will he stay or will he go?

The Rays no longer have the worst record in baseball, they are playing better, and they are just 9 1/2 out — which doesn’t look like a train wreck given the way they’ve played. There doesn’t seem to be a world beater in the AL East, so can they climb out of the cellar and make a run to the playoffs? It’s not likely they can do so without Price, who is pitching at a high level, particularly over his last two starts.

On the flip side, would not trading Price be detrimental to the Rays’ future based on the unknown prospects that might be harvested from such a deal. No. 1 starters are hard to come by, so parting with prospects — and remember, prospects are not Major-League players — could be a killer deal for most any team hoping to make the playoffs.

Tough call for Andrew Friedman, the Rays executive vice president of baseball operations.

Monday Price told reporters he thought he would be with the Rays once the trade deadline passes. The more the Rays win, the better the chances are he will remain a Ray.

Should be interesting to follow over the coming weeks.

–Bill Chastain

Rays Decisions

The Rays enter the weekend needing to make decisions on exercising options for the following players:
Second baseman Ben Zobrist ($7 million option), shortstop Yunel Escobar ($5 million), outfielder David DeJesus ($6.5 million) and right-hander Juan Carlos Oviedo ($2 million).
The decisions to pick up the options for Zobrist and Escobar seem clear cut as both are earmarked to be starters on the 2014 team. Meanwhile, the DeJesus’ decision is a little murkier.
The Rays have always coveted DeJesus, and having him on their roster at the end of the 2013 did nothing to diminish that feeling. But his price tag is steep. So there’s a chance they could decline to pick up his option, pay the $1.5 million buyout, then try and sign him to a more affordable price. Obviously, the risk in such a move comes in the fact he would become a free agent after the buyout, affording other teams an opportunity to sign him.
As for Oviedo, if the Rays do not re-sign free-agent closer Fernando Rodney, there’s a chance the veteran right-hander could close for next year’s team. Oviedo, previously known as Leo Nunez when he saved 92 games for the Marlins between 2009 and 2011, signed a Minor-League deal with the Rays in 2013 and spent the entire season rehabbing from Tommy John surgery to his right elbow.
–Bill Chastain

Rays Stance the Same

As noted earlier by yours truly, the Rays don’t appear like they’ll be active as we approach the trade deadline. Here’s what Joe Maddon said when asked about whether the Rays will try and make any trades:

“I really believe that we have what we need right here but Andrew’s job is to go out there and attempt to always make us better. If anything were to show up that he felt made us better, you would probably see that happen. For right now, in his mind and mine, I think we have plenty right here as well as what we have coming in from Triple-A. It’s foolish to say Andrew isn’t looking and active on the market but for right now, I’m really pleased with our group. You’re seeing some young guys like Alex Torres get better, Chris Archer get better. The fact that Wil Myers is up and playing as well as he is, you see Longo struggling at the end of the first half knowing he will be back in full force, same thing with Zobrist and Matt Joyce. There’s a lot to look forward to within this particular group.”

Unless somebody blows their socks off, I just don’t see anything happening at this point.

–Bill Chastain

Rays Not Expected to Do Much

In past years, the Rays have been one of the more intriguing teams heading toward the trade deadline. Were they going to be buyers or sellers?

Andrew Friedman, the Rays executive vice-president of baseball operations, recently allowed that he will have discussions with other teams. But this is one year when it would be totally surprising to see a deal come to fruition.

For the first time in forever, the Rays have an offense that can score a lot of runs via their “swarming” style.  And with the addition of Wil Myers, who became the team’s every-day right fielder, the Rays are as close to an every-day lineup as they have been any time in their history. That leaves plenty of capable players sitting on the bench looking for playing time.

Meanwhile, the starting pitching seems to be coming around, with David Price leading the charge. Normally Price would be in the rumor mix, but based on the fact that he’s just coming off the disabled list coupled with the Rays being in contention, the Rays aren’t likely to have any serious discussions about his availability at this juncture.

In deference to recent seasons, the rumors don’t even involve the Rays this season.  So unless an unforeseen injury or circumstance takes place before the deadline, don’t expect the Rays to be active.

–Bill Chastain