The Tampa Bay Rays have several very good, controllable starting pitchers. And because of other areas Matt Silverman and the front office need to address, the Rays may trade pitching this off-season to improve the roster.
According to a report from Joel Sherman, the Rays “left the GM Meetings under the stronger belief they would trade one from among starters Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi, Drew Smyly and less likely Alex Cobb.”
The Cubs are one of several teams that have prioritized adding starting pitching this off-season.
The Cubs and Rays have had a lot of conversations over the past 18 months. Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer and Matt Silverman admitted last winter that the two teams lined up for potential deals in the future. While the talks have taken place, a deal has not been done yet.
The conversations last off-season reportedly included Jake Odorizzi, Drew Smyly, Matt Moore, Jake McGee and possibly Chris Archer. Jake McGee was traded to the Rockies and Matt Moore was sent to the Giants at the deadline. The Rays and Cubs discussed a deal for Moore before he was traded to San Francisco for Matt Duffy, Lucius Fox and Michael Santos. The Cubs were not going to meet the Rays asking price for Moore, which was Javier Baez or Kyle Schwarber.
Multiple reports last winter indicated the Rays had more interest in Javier Baez than Jorge Soler. The Cubs did not want to trade Baez then and he’s now on the list of core players the front office is not willing to trade.
Joel Sherman indicated the Rays are looking for a left fielder, catcher and relievers “either through the trade or by freeing money to seek it out in free agency.” Soler would help the Rays in left field. But Soler’s value is at an all-time low and he would have to be one piece, not the headliner, of a much bigger package to acquire a starting pitcher from the Rays.
Chris Archer is coming off a down year. Archer was 9-19 in 33 starts with a 4.02 ERA, 1.24 WHIP and 3.81 FIP. Archer had a bad season with a decent second half. Archer allowed 100 runs, 90 earned, on 183 hits with 67 walks and 233 strikeouts in 201 1/3 innings. In 14 starts after the break, Archer was 5-7 with a 3.25 ERA and 1.00 WHIP.
Archer just turned 28 years old (Sept. 26) and has five years of control remaining on his incredibly team-friendly contract. Archer is owed $4.75 million in 2017, $6.25 million in 2018 and $7.5 million in 2019. Archer has two club options for 2020 and 2021 worth $9 million ($1.75 million buyout) and $11 million ($250,000 buyout) respectively.
Jake Odorizzi was 10-6 in 33 starts this past season with a 3.69 ERA, 1.19 WHIP and 4.31 FIP. Like Archer, Odorizzi had a down season. Odorizzi gave up 80 runs, 77 earned, on 170 hits with 54 walks and 166 strikeouts in a career-high 187 2/3 innings.
Odorizzi turns 27 at the end of Spring Training (March 27) and the right-hander has three years of team control before he becomes a free agent (through the 2019 season). Odorizzi is arbitration eligible for the first time this winter.
Lefty Drew Smyly has two years of club control left on his contract. Smyly was paid $3.75 million for a rough season in the Rays’ rotation. Smyly was 7-12 in 30 starts with a 4.88 ERA, 1.27 WHIP and 4.49 FIP. Smyly allowed 103 runs, 95 earned, on 174 hits with 49 walks and 167 strikeouts in 175 1/3 innings. Smyly is 27 years old and will pitch the first 2 ½ months of the 2017 season before his next birthday (June 13).
Alex Cobb was able to get back on the mound in September. As would be expected with coming off Tommy John surgery, Cobb struggled after his return was delayed a month. Cobb made five starts for a total of 22 innings and he allowed 22 runs, 21 earned, on 32 hits with seven walks and 16 strikeouts. Cobb was 1-2 with an 8.59 ERA, 1.77 WHIP and 5.60 FIP after missing the entire 2015 season.
Cobb has one year of team control left and is set to be a free agent after the 2017 season. Cobb turned 29 on Oct. 7. Cobb should have more value as a deadline deal for the Rays than he does now with only five starts under his belt after Tommy John.
All four pitchers have a history with Joe Maddon from his time as Rays’ skipper.
The front office has prioritized adding pitching this winter to put the Cubs in position to defend The World Series Championship. The Cubs have not been connected to the Rays since the end of The Series.
Even with sending Gleyber Torres and Billy McKinney in the package of players to the Yankees for Aroldis Chapman, the Cubs have the talent in what is considered to be a deep farm system to acquire a controllable starting pitcher this winter.
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