Multiple Reports Indicate Rays Trade Talks Picking Up – Are the Cubs Still Involved?

tampa bay rays logoOutside of the things that Chicago Cubs have actually accomplished this offseason – and they are plentiful – the will-they-won’t-they rumor of the past two months has involved the Cubs sending young positional talent to the Tampa Bay Rays for pitching. The rumors got hot and heavy during the Winter Meetings, then they cooled, then they popped back up, and then talk popped up again earlier this week.

It’s safe to say at this point that there’s mutual interest in a deal, even if the particulars of a trade have not yet come together.

Of particular interest to Cubs fans, then, is a report from Ken Rosenthal that the Rays are involved in “many active trade conversations” about their pitching, both starting and relieving. Rosenthal adds, with a more speculative tone, that the Cubs and Rockies, with their hitters to offer, line up well with the Rays.

[adinserter block=”1″]This morning, Jerry Crasnick offers the same – Rays trade talks involving pitching (non-Chris Archer edition) is picking up.

Jim Bowden offers his own update in a new video at ESPN, reporting that the Cubs are still trying to add a young starting pitcher, and have been in “constant contact” with the Rays on that front. As you’d expect, Javier Baez and Jorge Soler are the objects of the Rays’ affection, according to Bowden, while Jake Odorizzi is the guy the Cubs are said to be targeting.

As I’ve said before, while the Cubs don’t need to add another starting pitcher at this point for 2016, they could certainly stand to lengthen the sure-fire part of the rotation a bit, and, more importantly, they could stand to add a younger, cost-controlled starter who will be able to help them in 2017 and beyond, when the rotation might thin.

To that end, someone like Odorizzi or even Tommy John recoveree Alex Cobb could make a ton of sense (or Matt Moore, if the Cubs want to take an even bigger gamble), but it’s hard to part with either Baez or Soler right now. If a deal could be had involving prospects, only, or perhaps a quality, but redundant, player like Chris Coghlan (and prospects), then obviously it’s something you’d jump on.

But I’m not sure there’s a fit there from the Rays’ perspective, and I also know that a team like the Cubs trades from the big league roster – even if it’s a redundant player – at their own risk. Having Coghlan in the fold for one more year is a very good thing, given Kyle Schwarber’s new-ness to left field (and he might start behind the plate some) and Jorge Soler’s long history of injuries.

If you’re asking me whether I want to see the Cubs trade a Baez or a Soler for an Odorizzi (just as a hypothetical) straight up, my answer is probably no, even as intriguing as I find Odorizzi. Each player’s upside remains enormous, and each remains very cost-controlled. Both players will add to the Cubs’ competitiveness in a meaningful way in 2016, so it’s not as if they are completely superfluous assets. Then, when you factor in the extra nervousness that accompanies the health of a pitcher over a positional player, and I’d like to see the Cubs hang onto Baez and Soler.

[adinserter block=”2″]Conversely, and in fairness, if I’m the Rays, I’d be hard pressed in this market to give up a cost-controlled, quality young starter like Odorizzi for anything less than a Baez or Soler-type (and, heck, I’m probably pushing for more, too). Good young pitching costs a lot, my friends.

Maybe there are ways to expand a deal to work on the fit – Desmond Jennings looks like an interesting outfield piece for the Cubs, especially given his versatility; and we know there has potentially been interest in the past in relievers like Jake McGee and Brad Boxberger – but deals of that size become unwieldy and difficult to pull off.

The good news is that the Cubs need not make a move here if it’s not a good value. Furthermore, they could always explore this kind of deal as we get on into the season a bit, since there isn’t an urgency, from the Cubs’ perspective, to add another starting pitcher immediately. Maybe they wait and see how Cobb’s rehab is going, or see how Moore bounces back in the early months of the season, and/or see how their own internal needs develop.

At any rate, then, we’ll see if this goes anywhere, with the Cubs or otherwise. The confluence of reports on the Rays in the last 24 hours sure makes it seem like things are picking up.

written by

Brett Taylor is the Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and on LinkedIn here. Brett is also the founder of Bleacher Nation, which opened up shop in 2008 as an independent blog about the Chicago Cubs. Later growing to incorporate coverage of other Chicago sports, Bleacher Nation is now one of the largest regional sports blogs on the web.

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