For as deep as the Chicago Cubs farm system (legitimately) is, the Tampa Bay Rays farm system is deeper. And for as tricky as the Cubs’ roster protection deadline will (legitimately) be, the Rays’ roster protection deadline will be trickier.
It is unsurprising, then, to learn that the Rays are entertaining trade talks before Tuesday’s rostering deadline, which could see them otherwise having to leave some quality prospects unprotected in the Rule 5 Draft, and/or could see them having to put quality players on waivers:
Let me be clear up front before I get all salacious: it’s most likely that the Rays will make a MINOR trade or three to capture some value for a guy who is otherwise being squeezed out. Like Bryan mentioned last week, a reliever like Shawn Armstrong – arbitration-eligible, Rays churn his type out like butter – being moved makes a lot of sense, and the Cubs could be a fit.
Even Morosi himself previously mentioned some possible trade candidates, including Ji-Man Choi, who was subsequently dealt to the Pirates. None are SUPER exciting:
Yarbrough is set to make upwards of $4 million in arbitration, so he seems an obvious one (but also hasn’t been particularly good the last two years). Chirinos only just fully came back from Tommy John last year, so he’d be an upside play.
I would add, since we’re looking at arbitration-eligible guys, Yandy Diaz is set to make over $5 million in arbitration, and he was quietly a breakout monster at the plate in 2022 (.296/.401/.423/146 wRC+). He’s already 31, and with a couple years left of control, seems like exactly the type of guy the Rays try to trade for prospects so they can constantly re-stock. You’d have to believe in the later-career breakout and you’d also have to be OK with meh defense at third from a righty bat. But he was so good at the plate. Dude walked (14.0%) way more than he struck out (10.8%). Price tag would probably be a little painful.
If you want to dream big, you start wondering about Brandon Lowe (bounce-back lefty bat on a great contract), or Vidal Brujan (post-hype switch-hitting prospect), each of whom can play multiple positions and could offer the Cubs a little more lineup diversity.
And if you want to dream REALLY big, you say, hey, how about you just send along Tyler Glasnow instead of taking on the risk of his first full season after Tommy John? That won’t happen, of course, since the Rays did that funky deal that extended him through 2024 with all the money paid out in 2024 (i.e., they are totally planning to trade him AFTER this season). But we’re dreaming, right?
Anyway, look for the Rays to move out an arbitration piece or two, and maybe a younger guy or two. I can conjure some fits with the Cubs, but there are 28 other teams out there, too.
UPDATE: 25 other teams, actually, because the Cubs are one of four that are involved:
I wonder why pitching was mentioned specifically, there. Is it because only a few arms – Armstrong, Yarbrough, and Chirinos? – are still being discussed in talks? I could be talked into any of the trio, and none should come at a huge acquisition cost.