Tampa Bay Rays Trade Deadline Guide

The Tampa Bay Rays have been one of the hottest teams all season long and will likely be in on pitching at the trade deadline this year.

ST PETERSBURG, FLORIDA - JUNE 22: Wander Franco #5 of the Tampa Bay Rays reacts after hitting a three-run home run during his Major League debut in the fifth inning against the Boston Red Sox at Tropicana Field on June 22, 2021 in St Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images) Photo: Getty Images

Since the beginning of the season, the Tampa Bay Rays have been one of the hottest teams in baseball. Situated in a strong AL East division, the Rays have held onto first place in the division until just recently, when the Baltimore Orioles snagged a share of first place (and technically hold the tiebreaker) yesterday.

A recent skid, that has seen the Rays go 3-7 over their last 10 games, has seen their lead dwindle away but the team is still in good shape.

They currently rank first in collective ERA (3.73) and opponents batting average (.228), while getting strong contributions from both the rotation and the bullpen, even with the numerous injuries they have had to overcome such as Shane Baz, Drew Rasmussen, and Jeffrey Springs to name a few.

Left-hander Shane McClanahan has been unstoppable this year when healthy (2.56 ERA through 18 starts) while numerous bullpen arms sport ERA’s below the 3.00 mark, including Jason Adam, Kevin Kelly, Coline Poche, Jake Diekman, and Pete Fairbanks.

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Offensively, the Rays find themselves near the top in numerous statistical categories as well, sitting third in .SLG (.451) and sitting fourth in OPS (.780), RBIs (503), and home runs (146).

The club also sports a +149.0 run differential, second-best in the MLB behind only the Texas Rangers while getting contributions up and down the lineup from key players such as Wander Franco, Yandy Díaz, Randy Arozarena, and Josh Lowe (amongst others).

Looking ahead, with the Orioles now tied with the Rays atop of the division and the last-place New York Yankees only 8.0 games back, a lot can happen between now and the end of the season, especially since Tampa will face division rivals Toronto (X2), Boston, and Baltimore in September.

A Starting Pitcher

With numerous injuries to the starting rotation, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to think that the Rays will be interested in adding a starter down the stretch. The Rays are well-known to make specific and calculated moves, with a known track record of finding great talent and developing them into everyday players or finding a way to find the win column on a majority of their major league moves.

For what it’s worth, the Rays boast a strong farm system, ranking within the top ten on numerous farm ranking sites, even with Taj Bradley no longer considered a prospect by some.

With assets to potentially part with, the Rays could dip into the system to trade for a Major League arm that could give them some length in the rotation, especially since Baz and Rasmussen aren’t slated to return this season.

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Target-wise, there are a lot of options to choose from as the trade deadline runs closer. The White Sox have some potential starters in Lucas Giolito, Dylan Cease, and Lance Lynn, each with their own pros and cons in relation to on-field performance and contract control, which matters for a Rays squad boasting a 26th-ranked salary payroll of just over $76 million.

The Cardinals also have two pitchers in Jordan Montgomery and Jack Flaherty to potentially look into, while the Cubs could also be a solid trade partner in regards to Marcus Stroman, who is no stranger to Tropicana Field after his tenure with the Blue Jays.

The Mets could be sellers within the next week or so as well, which might put Max Scherzer into consideration, while a potential trade for a two-way star could be in the cards as well before the deadline passes.

It should be noted that any pitcher with a larger contract next season is more unlikely to be a trade candidate given the Rays salary cap history, but the club has shown they are not afraid to pursue talent with cost (as well as extending players to long term deals as they did with Franco), which may be bucking the previous trend.

Wherever you look, there are a few different starters potentially available and it wouldn’t be surprising if the club walks away with at least one arm to help them try and lock down first in the AL East.

The Bullpen

As I mentioned earlier, the Rays bullpen has been solid for a good chunk of the season, even with the numerous bullpen games the club has had to endure given the rotation injury woes.

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While the relief corps has been trending in the right direction, adding a veteran arm wouldn’t be the worst move, giving the club some added insurance down into September and beyond.

Similar to most trade deadlines, a bevy of talented relievers are likely on the block, including Kenyan Middleton (White Sox), Michael Lorenzen (Tigers), Jordan Hicks (Cardinals), David Robertson (Mets), and southpaw Josh Hader (Padres), who will likely be one of the most coveted (and expensive) additions on the trade market.

Again, salary cap considerations will likely factor in and high-salaried players into multiple years beyond 2023 may be less coveted unless they come with years of control in the form of arbitration. However, Hader, Robertson, and Hicks are all free agents after this season and could fit into the Rays’ plans if they are looking for a rental-only type arm.


The Rays boast a bevy of talent on the infield and in the outfield, with numerous players able to start games as needed and produce when called upon.

Of the group, the weakest link in the armour is coming from behind the plate, where Christian Bethancourt and Francisco Mejía have been below average in the batter’s box. Defensively, neither catcher is ranking well amongst the league’s catchers in terms of framing metrics (both negative values) and Bethancourt has thrown out 22% of base stealers (ranked at #22 in the league and 1% above league average) compared to Mejía’s 15%.

While the Rays could look to upgrade behind the plate, the current outlook of players available doesn’t look too deep at the moment, with White Sox catcher Yasmani Grandal the likely top available option. A switch hitter, Grandal sports a .705 OPS this season with seven home runs while throwing out 14% of base runners, which isn’t really an upgrade offensively compared to the Rays’ current options and a downgrade on the defensive side of the ball.

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Unless the Rays’ front office finds a deal for a catcher that isn’t high on the trade rumour mill and likely comes with controllable years, the most likely additions will be on the pitching front.

Shohei Ohtani?

One of the best players on the planet is potentially available this trade deadline, although that is still yet to be determined even with the Angels’ front office listening to potential offers.

Acquiring Ohtani heavily improves any team’s playoff chances given his talent and two-way abilities but the cost will be steep, especially considering the Japanese product is free-agent eligible at the end of the year and in line for a monster payday.

For the Rays, the organization does have the prospect depth to produce a quality offer that could persuade the Angels to part with Ohtani but the likelihood of retaining him past this season is low given salary restraints, unless a real diversion from past history is in the cards.

That being said, Ohtani is talented enough that he be the final piece the Rays need to get over the final hurdle and bring the organization its first-ever World Series championship, even if he departs this winter.