The Rays As Sellers

The Rays may be in a new position when it comes to this year’s trade deadline. Since their playoff odds have dropped more than any other team’s since the beginning of the season and are now close to 5%, it’s at least hard to see them as buyers. Then again, they haven’t made a ton of in-season acquisitions in their more competitive past, and their team is built for 2015 as much as it was built for this year — it’s likely that their transition from buyers to sellers may come without many big moves.

Add up all their June and July trades over the past five years, and you don’t get much. Despite averaging 90 wins and being competitive most years, they haven’t been very active as the deadline has approached.

2013
Traded for Jesse Crain from the White Sox
2012
Traded for Ryan Roberts from the Arizona Diamondbacks
2011
No June or July trades.
2010
Traded for Chad Qualls from the Arizona Diamondbacks
2009
Traded for Jon Meloan from the Cleveland Indians

If the trend holds, the Rays will send Joel Peralta to the Arizona Diamondbacks and call it a day.

That’s me, having a lark. But there is another reason to believe that this team will remain mostly intact for the 2015 season. Here’s the full list of currently under-contract Rays that will become free agents after the 2014 season:

Juan Oviedo
Erik Bedard

Full stop. If you subscribe to the belief that only things that aren’t nailed down should be sold, then there isn’t likely to be a big trade in the Rays future.

Then again, there is the fact that the never-ending cupboard of major-league-ready starting pitching prospects seems to be drying up. In the past, there’s always been a Chris Archer, an Alex Cobb, a Matt Moore, a Jeremy Hellickson to call up. The current rotation has already called up Jake Odorizzi, who’s struggling to find a second workable pitch after his new splitter. Behind him, you’ve got Alex Colome struggling to find the plate and Enny Romero, who’s just struggling, period. And behind them, you have to go down to A-ball to find your starters.

No matter if you’re a fan of Romero and Colome, you’d be hard pressed to argue that they are the same quality of past Tampa young arms. In fact, now that Odorizzi is up, there isn’t a single Ray farmhand that was in Baseball America’s top 100 this year.

It could be time for a re-stocking trade.

If you open up trade candidates to those that are free agents in 2016, you get a more interesting list:

David Price
Grant Balfour
Ben Zobrist
Matt Joyce
Jose Molina
Sean Rodriguez

None of the group is going to be as expensive as David Price, and for Tampa that might matter. They’ve traded away other starting pitchers in the same situation, choosing major-league ready packages for James Shields, Edwin Jackson, Matt Garza, Scott Kazmir and Jason Hammel. There’s precedent, and now there’s a situation ripe for a deal.

It’s not likely the rest of the list will get the Rays the multiple major-league ready arms they might need, so David Price is the prize. Who could pony up?

We’re looking for a strong farm system on a contender. Using John Sickel’s farm system rankings, the best fits are the Boston Red Sox, St. Louis Cardinals, Colorado Rockies, Texas Rangers, Los Angeles Dodgers, Toronto Blue Jays, Baltimore Orioles, and San Francisco Giants. Get any lower on the rankings, and you’re asking too much from largely barren systems like the Nationals’ and Yankees’.

In-division trades happen, but in this case seem unlikely — the Rays would like to compete again in 2015. So take those teams out, too. And an organization like the Cardinals’ hardly seems like it needs pitching. Shake up the contenders again, and you get the Rockies, Dodgers, Giants and Rangers. The Rangers and Rockies are down to close to 10% playoff odds, so you might be looking at a west coast standoff for the services of Price.

The Rays may have to swallow hard and trade in their division, though, if a package of ready arms is what they seek. The Giants have Kyle Crick and Edwin Escobar, but both are struggling and Crick doesn’t seem ready. Add to that the fact that Brian Sabean spoke repeatedly of the young arms that the Cardinals have stocked up, and he may not want to let go of his own. The Dodgers have Zach Lee and Julio Urias, but Urias is a teenager and Lee doesn’t really have the upside you’d expect from a cornerstone in a Price trade.

There are reasons that a Price trade hasn’t happened yet, in other words. History suggests that it will happen, especially with the Rays as sellers this year, but that it’s likely to happen in the offseason. Even if a Price trade does happen in the next couple of months, it’ll be mostly business as usual for the team, and may not be accompanied by much other selling. This is a team that tries to keep its cost-controlled core intact while always building for the immediate future, and most of their team will return in 2015.




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Graphs: Baseball, Roto, Beer, brats (OK, no graphs for that...yet), repeat. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris.

102 Responses to “The Rays As Sellers”

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  1. Reginald says:

    Matt Joyce in Detroit, platooning in LF with Davis. YES, PLEASE

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  2. scatterbrian says:

    I would love to see Price in Oakland, but I would also love to see $1,000,000 in my bank account.

    Zobrist, however, is a fantastic fit for the A’s. Curious what he would cost in a trade.

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    • Steve says:

      An A’s/Rays trade? That would be talked about for years and years to come. My money is on the A’s getting the better bargain.

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    • BMB says:

      Zorilla + Punto = Zonto? Porilla (is that a type of pasta?)

      Zobrist would be perfect for the A’s, a team of swiss army knives. Plus the other day I was looking at the A’s roster and I think they could use another hitter from the right side as neither Callapso, Punto or Sogard have done anything against righties.

      But things like this make too much sense, so they’ll never happen.

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      • BMB says:

        Sorry I mean those three have done nothing against lefties.

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      • Steven says:

        Walker’s stock is down this year with his reduced velocity and effectiveness. Nick Franklin is now a career .214/.291/.358 hitter over 464 PAs. Brad Miller is now a career .231/.293/.367 hitter over 519 PAs. Not sure there’s enough left without emptying out the entire farm system.

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      • scatterbrian says:

        I never understood Zorilla…..but probably because I would have pushed for Zobi-Wan Kenobi.

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    • foxinsox says:

      How about A.J. Griffin or Aaron Parker + a bit more for Zobrist?

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  3. bdsparty32 says:

    What about the Mariners? There was a lot of chatter about a Taijuan Walker based package for Price before the season, any chance they would rekindle those discussions?

    And I know the Rays would prefer to trade him outside the division, but the Red Sox seem like a perfect match with all their prospect depth. Mookie + Owens for Price, who says no first?

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    • davidaquick says:

      From memory there was talk of Price not extending with the Ms so would be a bad move in that case (so the Ms will probably do it then)

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    • Jim says:

      I would say the Red Sox say no. Price would require a long-term extension and the Red Sox so far appear to be hesitant to even commit to their own ace in Jon Lester. Cherington also appears to be intent on building towards the wave of prospects currently in AA/AAA and Mookie Betts + Henry Owens are currently the #1/#2 prospects in the system. Lastly, it’s just hard to envision the Red Sox being buyers at this pace

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  4. Lakeside says:

    Price and Ortiz in Boston would be a media delight.

    +16 Vote -1 Vote +1

  5. Brendan says:

    quick edits for Eno:
    “in tact” -> intact
    “ascribe to the belief” -> subscribe
    “rife for a deal” -> ripe
    spell-check can’t find those, I guess.

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    • Spell Check says:

      “Brendan” -> douchebag
      some things are easier to spot than others, I guess.

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      • jim S. says:

        Hey, a former editor, I can tell you there’s very little editing done these days.

        +12 Vote -1 Vote +1

        • jim S. says:

          Uh, make that: AS a former editor . . . LOL

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        • Eno Sarris says:

          I think it’s okay to have different standards for web and print. In my former life, I edited books that were printed millions of times a year. Yeah, I read that copy more than the three times I read this piece. I don’t begrudge him pointing it out though. I love my editors. I was one once, and am one now for others.

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        • Baltar says:

          As a guy who has done lots of things, I can tell you that it’s hard to spot your own mistakes because you know what they are supposed to be and see them that way.
          Another person with good English and some interest in baseball could do it better in one read than you do in three.
          Fine one for the entire FanGraphs site.

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    • Eno Sarris says:

      Fixed. Thanks.

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    • Matty Brown says:

      Who honestly gives a fuck

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  6. Mr Punch says:

    It may be true that only Price would command a package of prospects, but a number of contenders are (at most) an injury away from being ready to give significant future value for, say, Zobrist or Balfour.

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    • scatterbrian says:

      I don’t think that’s the case anymore. Most teams value — and perhaps overvalue — prospects and their controllable years.

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  7. Alice Cooper says:

    Close to a 0% chance that the Pirates would acquire a guy like Price, but I’m wondering why you would include the Rockies on a list of “Contenders with a strong farm system” and not the Buccos…?

    Pirates: 28-31, 26.3% playoff odds, #4 farm system

    Rockies: 28-31, 11.8% playoff odds, #8 farm system

    Nitpicking, I guess, but the Pirates would definitely be able to put together a package to acquire Price, probably a better package than any of the other teams listed (Boston would rival them in that department). There’s just no precedent for them to make a move like that.

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  8. bdsparty32 says:

    Mookie Betts + Henry Owens for Price; who says no first?

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    • Patrick says:

      Red Sox

      Look over the next year and a half you’ll get 9 to 10 WAR max out of David Price, and you’ll pay 20+ million for that. I think Mookie Betts alone is worth more than that.

      The better question is who is worth more: David Price for a year and a half at 22 million or John Lackey for a year and a half at 8 to 9 million?

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    • Patrick says:

      Trading prospects for established players is a bad deal. The team trading the veteran expects to get equal value in prospects and the player being traded expects equal value in cash. In other words you pay twice for the same thing.

      Unfortunately for the Rays, other GM’s have I think figured this out, even if writers and fans have not

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      • Sal Sarcastic says:

        You mean a veteran player’s contract should be included when we factor his potential trade value? Holey Schnikeys, that’s a brand new idea!

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        • Patrick says:

          No what I am saying is that the contract he is going to get when he hits free agency should be figured in. When one considers that it will require a ten year $200 million plus commitment to retain David Price after 2015, trading even one elite prospect for him, let alone two, is a bad idea.

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        • Sal Sarcastic says:

          The prospect haul is for the benefit of having Price for 1.5 years for $20m or so way more than it is for negotiating rights to his next contract.

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        • JC says:

          The team that trades for him would still be able to give him a qualifying offer after 2015. That extra pick might not make up for the loss of elite prospects but it could make it easier to sign draft picks because of the slot bonus, not to mention the compensatory pick could turn into something good.

          Teams might be hesitant to trade elite prospects for expiring contracts but the extra year makes it a different ballgame.

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  9. LHPSU says:

    David DeJesus is an FA after 2015 with an option for 2016, James Loney is an FA after 2016, Yunel Escobar is an FA after 2016 with 2017 option, Ryan Hanigan is an FA after 2016 with 2017 option, all of whom are starters or at least interesting role players for many teams, and none of whom received even a mention. Joel Peralta is also an FA after 2015 (with options through 17) and mentioned only in passing.

    Either I’m blind and missing something really obvious, or Eno must not have been even mninutely sober when he wrote this.

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    • LHPSU says:

      Ok, so I AM blind and he means FA after 2015. Still, David DeJesus should very much be a tradable asset.

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      • Eno Sarris says:

        Not so sure of that if they want to be competitive in 2015. Also: given the contract he signed and the fact that he was widely available this offseason, doubt he would bring much back. They haven’t sold players of his ilk in the past five years either. Question my sobriety again, it’s really fun.

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      • Baltar says:

        Sure, the Rays have lots of players who could be traded for prospects.
        I don’t think they should and I don’t think they will.
        This season has been a disaster so far because of a plethora of injuries, poor performances and lack of “clutch.” All of these will regress and the Rays, with no big changes, will probably end up the season around .500.
        They are what Toronto was last year, but not as bad. Like Toronto, they should more-or-less stand pat and stand an excellent chance of coming back all the way next year and perhaps the following year as well.

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        • everdiso says:

          I wouldn’t lean to heavily on the injury excuse. They’ve had seven injured players, two long term. All their divisional rivals can say the same… or worse.

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      • Shankbone says:

        Nobody in their right mind wants pie throwing David DeJesus.

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    • Eno Sarris says:

      I clearly state that the people on my list are free agents after 2015 and didn’t consider team option players free agents.

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  10. Jason says:

    I would love to see the Cards make the trade for him if they could do it without giving up Taveras. Wainwright-Price-Wacha would be good playoff rotation next two seasons (granted they get there of course)

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    • Zesty Enterprise says:

      My thoughts exactly. Price in StL would be freaking scary .. for opponents. I’d love to see it, even though I never root for the Cards.

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    • Semperty says:

      Mo is too stingy with prospects to do it, but I would love to see us bring Price in. It’d probably cost us Miller, which sucks, but if it nets Price I’m absolutely fine with. Maybe like Miller/Piscotty and a few toss in pieces could get it done.

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    • Ivan Grushenko says:

      Carlos Martinez and Randall Grichuk for Price and Balfour?

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  11. Danny says:

    I’m thinking trading Price within the division would be a Rays thing to do. Especially if they don’t think they can compete next year.

    Not sure the Jays or Yankees have the assets. Maybe Baltimore or Boston.

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  12. Bill says:

    The dodgers make the most sense, and don’t rule out position players like pederson or seager or guerrero. Also, don’t rule out a blockbuster that also includes other major league players like a matt kemp or desmond jennings, especially if the dodgers pick up payroll.

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    • Bip says:

      I highly doubt anyone wants Matt Kemp right now.

      I also don’t really see why the Dodgers make the most sense. With Billingsley returning from TJ surgery and Zach Lee basically ready, the starting pitching may be among the least of the Dodgers’ problems right now. I feel the Giants have more rotation holes, but they may not have the farm to get Price.

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    • Ivan Grushenko says:

      Crick and Escobar for Price could work

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  13. MLB Rainmaker says:

    I didn’t see it mentioned anywhere in the comments, but I’d think Milwaukee would be interested in Price and have the motivation to make the deal. While the Brewers have a strong staff, they don’t have a single lefty starter

    I’m not 100% sure they have the assets to get a deal done, but a package of Jimmy Nelson, Taylor Jungman and maybe Hunter Morris sounds pretty interesting for me. Nelson is MLB-ready today, Jungman is at AAA with fairly strong outlook, and Morris is a the strong side of a platoon which the Rays are all about.

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    • Bip says:

      I don’t know if the status of any of their prospects has changed dramatically since the offseason, but the Brewers, along with the Angels, were pretty much universally regarded as having the worst farm in baseball.

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    • Leo Walter says:

      Those pieces would probably get you a quick Friedman hang up.

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      • MLB Rainmaker says:

        Like has been said by others, I think you’d be overvaluing Price. He’s making $14M this season and that number will likely go up next year in arbitration, so you’d only be a year and half of his services for ~$25M and gutting your whole farm system….not sure there will be a bunch of teams jumping at that deal…

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        • Spencer says:

          I agree that Price might be overvalued in a vacuum, most of these soon to be FAs for long term assets deals are. However, Price is no doubt an elite pitcher and that has immense value to a team fighting for the playoffs, more than what he would in a vacuum. Secondly, the market for these deals is higher than that, regardless of whether that deal would make sense in vacuum it’s pretty clear other teams would be willing to offer more, so that would probably be an easy hang up.

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    • TomTerrific says:

      The Brewers have 5 fully functioning SPs. They prob don’t make a call unless one gets injured.

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  14. Spa City says:

    The Rays are smart enough that they won’t hesitate to trade within their division in order to maximize their return. Why is there a fear of trading a player to a division rival? Wouldn’t you want the maximum number of teams competing against each other to trade for Price, Zobrist, Joyce, Escobar, etc?

    If the Jays offered Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez and Drew Hutchison for David Price, I cannot imagine the Rays saying no. If the Red Sox offered Garin Cecchini, Mookie Betts and Henry Owens, who would turn that down?

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    • LukeNalooshe says:

      If the Jays trade Stroman + Hutchison + Sanchez to Tampa Bay I’ll eat my hat. Why would the Jays give up 13 years of Stroman/Hutchison, whom are in their rotation right now and project to be a 2/3′s? And then on top of that give up one of the most electirc non-Giolito arms in the minor leagues? David Price is prohibitively expensive to AL East teams, and that’s fine. The Jays can focus on stop-gap guys who won’t cost 20 years of future production (Hammel/McCarthy/etc.).

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    • pft says:

      I think you are wildly overstating the returns on Pirce

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      • Spa City says:

        Yes. All I meant was the Rays would likely consider inter-division trade offers, rather than adhere to the old theory that trading to division rivals is somehow bad. I just threw names sort of randomly. But I understand that people tend to react to their first impression of other peoples’ comments. Not a big deal.

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        • everdiso says:

          I followed you. And agree that the rays wouldn’t hesitate to trade in division, if that’s where the best bid came from. They wouldn’t even let division status be a consideration at all.

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  15. Plucky says:

    If they go in-division, the logical choice would be Baltimore. Between Gausman, Bundy, and Harvey, they’d have the best pitching talent to offer. Hardy and Cruz are FA’s after this season, Markakis, Wieters, and Davis after next. They’ve currently got a rotation with 5 #4 starters (Jimenez is looking like a bust) that would get annihilated by the Oakland, Detroit, or LA offense in a playoff series. Furthermore, this is the weakest the AL East has been in over a decade. Their shot is now if they are willing to take the risk.

    If Boston and Tampa were living up to their preseason expectations, then Baltimore probably ought to have been a seller, reloading for the combined primes of Machado and the pitchers listed above, but this is their best chance in a while to win the division, and almost no one in the AL is out of the WC running.

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    • Ivan Grushenko says:

      Does Baltimore have much of a chance at the division with Toronto looking like a juggernaut? Why go all in for 2014? In 2015 they’ll have the Red Sox and Rays to deal with too. Why not stick with the long term plan?

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    • everdiso says:

      I’m not so sure stroman/hutch/sanchez/norris/osuna/hoffman doesn’t trump the orioles top pitching prospects.

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  16. Mike Green says:

    Zobrist would be of interest to the Blue Jays. I don’t know that the Rays would get enough back for him to make it worth their while. Maybe Zobrist for an arm with an ETA of 2016. Having Zobrist’s salary off the books for 2015 might be a net positive for the Rays.

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    • LukeNalooshe says:

      Zobrist is interesting, and presumably highly coveted all around baseball. I think he could get a great return if unloaded, but if I’m Tampa I’m holding Zobrist.

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    • Jefftown says:

      The Jays’ focus should be on acquiring another starter other than Price or Samardzija. My hunch is their respective clubs’ acceptable prospect return is too dear for the Jays to part with. Jason Hammel strikes a better chord.

      Of course, there’s always the injury contingency, which could change any team’s trade-deadline value of a guy like Zobrist.

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  17. Hank says:

    The best time to trade Price may be the offseason – sure one less 1/2 year of service but you probably have a bigger field of teams; some may have holes from FA or folks who think they can build on 2014 and contend in 2015.

    In hindsight last offseason may have been the ideal time, but who knows what people were willing to offer and how willing the Rays would have been to go into the season without him unless they got a massive haul.

    Zobrist might be a good guy to move at the deadline, especially if the Rays think he is declining.

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    • Ivan Grushenko says:

      Well sure they should trade anyone they think is declining fast but why would they think that about Zobrist now?

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  18. The good people of Toronto says:

    Please come. The Price is right.

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  19. Slugworth says:

    Where’s that bastard Charlie and his chocolate?

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  20. pft says:

    Prices stock has dropped. Not the pitcher he once was, and looks to be in CC like decline with a dash of Scott Kazmir decline.

    FIP still likes him though

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    • You might want to wait till end of year before announcing his decline. He could have a Sabathia to Milwaukee type second half if he goes to NL team. His K/9, BB/9, and K/BB are all elite so I’m betting there’s a lot left in the tank and should have a very nice 2nd half. He would really benefit from better run support tho.

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    • Ivan Grushenko says:

      If FIP still likes him, why isn’t he the pitcher he once was?

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    • TheRealRyan says:

      Where do you get that he is in decline? He has the best xFIP of his career and his FIP is less than 0.1 worse than his Cy Young season.

      He is averaging more than 7 IP/start, which is the best of his career. There have also only been 4 pitchers(Pedro, R. Johnson, Schilling, Sheets) to ever have a better K-BB% than his current 24.0% and he has a better K/BB ratio than any pitcher in the last 130 years.

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  21. Andy Friedman says:

    You have to factor in the extra 2% when you consider any deal with the Rays. Not to mention this is the smartest front office in baseball and will easily “win” any trade with their Winning combination of Generation X management philosophies and Wall Street guile.

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  22. Rally squirrel says:

    Don’t believe Rays would trade Price to division rival and he would sure fit nice between Wainwright and Wacha, so how about a package of Craig or Adams, Piscotty or Grichuk, and any arm outside of before mentioned and Rosenthal? Rays in dire need of offensive help as well. Maybe if they wanted another pitcher Cards could accommodate in place of outfielder. Any talk of including Taveras in a deal is insane and Mozeliak would not consider it for a pitcher. Stanton might be a different story but that’s not gonna happen. Marlins would want a lot more besides.

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  23. sluggerrr says:

    I’m not saying that Washington is bursting at the seams with top prospects, but I don’t think you can totally write of Washington as prospect-less as long as they have Lucas Giollito, who I would think would be a first class centerpiece in any trade.

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  24. Brett W says:

    With Samardzija also available and the lack of desperate, well-stocked contenders, Price getting traded for the price you state seems unlikely.

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  25. isasson says:

    I think Zobrist would look great in a Mets jersey at SS

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  26. Rays Fan says:

    I don’t think the Rays are going to find many suitors for Price, now or in the off season. He’ the prototypical $1,000,000 arm and $0.10 head. His tweets will create a media circus in a large market, and he makes it clear that he values money more than the game (don’t take my word for it, just scan the history of his twitter account — even the edited version will show this). Combine that with a drop in velocity and his reluctance to do anything other than pound the strike zone, and you won’t find too many people willing to listen for what the Rays will ask for. To put it another way — nobody is going to pay top dollar for Price when that Cy Young award is looking pretty far away in the rear view mirror.

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  27. TomTerrific says:

    The Tigers are probably the most aggressive team that also has a possible rotation opening especially if Smyly continues to struggle. They also have Devon Travis who’s kinda blocked by Kinsler. Travis plus Knebel may not be a lot more than they have a right to expect by now w/o other teams lining up.

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  28. m.avery58 says:

    Haven’t seen anything about maybe the giants as a possible partner for Zobrist? Dont know if theres anything to it or not… I would think a package of Crick and Susac and maybe another (dont really know who)? Think the Rays could maybe bite on that.

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    • TomTerrific says:

      Yeah that’d be a boffo return for Zobrist. Susac is a very nice chip they have that someone may land. He looks like not far from being a regular ML C. Zobrist is 33 and not looking much like the player he once was. I don’t think he returns a top prospect unless he gets very hot. He’s got an option for 2015 at $7.5M.

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