Speculation has begun about the Rays parting with starting pitching to bolster their offense.
Late Sunday night, Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio reported that the Rays and Nationals could be trade partners. The Nationals want starting pitching and the Rays have interest in outfielder/first baseman Michael Morse and middle infielder Danny Espinosa.
In addition, Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports reported that the Rays are close to signing a one-year deal with free-agent first baseman James Loney.
According to the Arizona Republic, the Diamondbacks are interested in Jeff Keppinger, who was one of the Rays’ best offensive performers in 2012.
Keppinger hit .325 this past season and he has a career .864 OPS against left-handers. The report speculates that the veteran infielder would play third base for the D-backs.
Earlier reports had the Rangers, Angels and Dodgers interested in James Shields. Now, according to a report by Fox Sports, the Braves and Cardinals can be added to that mix.
While the idea of the Rays trading Shields when the team is just 2 1/2 games out of the Wild Card spot still seems remote, there are some interesting aspects to this year’s trade market. The Rays have never felt any pressure to make moves due to deadlines such as the trade deadline and actually have taken the stance that players usually have better value in the off-season when more teams are interested. But, if in fact there are as many teams interested in Shields as reported, the Rays might be able to get the deal that blows them away that could pry away Shields.
Shields’ recent numbers have not been good, but he is healthy and could help any team by the fact he eats up innings alone. In addition, he is under control for another two years for reasonable sums. So his attractiveness is understandable.
Rumors that James Shields is going to the Angels for Hank Conger, Peter Bourjos, and Ervin Santana have been constant, but ESPN’s Jayson Stark tempered those rumors by noting that Evan Longoria’s return would likely cut the Rays incentive to trade Shields since, with Longoria back in the lineup, the Rays would have much-improved chances to earn a spot in the playoffs.
Stark also reported that there is a “big market” for Rays reliever Wade Davis.
Based on what Andrew Friedman said yesterday, the Rays aren’t quite sure which way to proceed where trades are concerned this year. Much of that state is due to Evan Longoria, whose return date from a torn left hamstring remains a mystery. Without knowing when he will be back, it’s hard for the team to determine what they might trade for to improve the offense.
Of course, if the Rays get off to a sluggish start to the second half, the Rays could quickly turn into sellers, which means B.J. Upton, Carlos Pena, Kyle Farnsworth and James Shields could be in play.
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Opening Day brought out a festive atmosphere to Tropicana Field, where the Rays opened their 2012 season Friday afternoon against the Yankees.
The pregame activities began with Jim Dundee, son of the late boxing legend Angelo Dundee, delivering the ceremonial first pitch Evan Longoria. The ball used was the one struck by Evan Longoria for his walk-off home run in the 12th inning of Game 162, on Sept. 28, 2011, sending the Rays to the postseason.
Angelo, an avid Rays fan and Clearwater, Fla., resident, died on Feb. 1 at the age of 90.
After the Yankees’ introduction along the third-base line, the Rays were introduced to raucous applause from the sellout crowd. Maddon, Carlos Pena, James Shields, Longoria, and Don Zimmer received particularly loud ovations.
Popular Tampa Bay area saxophonist B.K. Jackson performed the National Athem, which led up to a showing of a film that captured the drama from Game 161, much to the delight of the crowd.
The pre-game ceremony concluded when the Rays hoisted an American League 2011 Wild Card banner, which joined a 2010 AL East Champions banner, and 2008 banners for winning the AL East and with the American League pennant. All of the banners reside above the left-field stands.
Tampa Bay is in the mix to sign Carlos Beltran according to CBS Sports, which said the Cardinals, Blue Jays and Red Sox also are vying for the veteran center fielder.
Tampa Bay could use the six-time all-star at either DH or in the outfield. The two biggest questions facing the Rays are: 1) Will he be affordable? (Remember, Beltran finished off a seven-year, $119 million deal in 2011. 2) Would he be able to adjust to playing DH? (All Rays fans remember Pat Burrell’s struggles while being used at DH full-time).
According to the story, Beltran hopes to make a decision by Christmas.
— Bill Chastain
According to a tweet by ESPN’s Buster Olney, the Rays are telling teams they will talk about dealing B.J. Upton, but they would have to be overwhelmed to move him. That sentiment sounds in line with what Andrew Friedman expressed when the Rays executive vice president of baseball operations told reporters — after being asked about Upton — that he was looking to improve the offense. His meaning was clear, he is not looking to trade major contributors to an offense that struggled to score runs in 2011.
According to FOXSports.com, the Rays are close to signing veteran catcher Jose Molina to a one-year contract with an option for 2013.
The Rays did not exercise their option for Kelly Shoppach, which left the top contenders to fill the catching role in 2012 as John Jaso, Jose Lobaton and Robinson Chirinos.
According to multiple reports, the Rays continue to listen to offers for B.J. Upton. Teams said to be interested include the Cardinals, Reds, Pirates, Royals, Nationals and Braves. However, while they are listening to possible deals, they aren’t willing to just give him away, which could lead to Upton finishing the season with the team.
Meanwhile, James Shields appears to be off the market, though according to CBSSports.com, right-handers Jeff Niemann and Wade Davis are in play.