ST. PETERSBURG — The Hot Stove has begun to simmer, as a handful of pitchers have found new homes, while the entire industry awaits a decision from Shohei Ohtani.
Things should get even more interesting next week when the baseball world gathers in Nashville, Tennessee for the Winter Meetings. The annual event often results in blockbuster trades, as one might expect when executives and front-office operatives are together under one roof.
The Rays won’t participate in the Ohtani sweepstakes or any other major free agent deals, but even a major move can jumpstart the entire offseason. Tampa Bay’s activity so far has mostly been limited to a few trades on a tight deadline, and the roster is barely settled as December approaches. There is still work to be done.
Here are four questions to keep in mind before, during and after the Winter Meetings.
Mike Petriello of MLB.com noted that Glasnow is one of five best starters available on the trade market this offseason. Many teams will surely jump at the chance to sign Glasnow, who has as much talent as any pitcher in the game with just one year and $25 million left under his belt. back loaded extension.
He’s a natural fit for higher-salary teams that may take a financial hit looking for a front-line starter, like the Dodgers, Giants or Cubs. But it’s worth noting that MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon reported that the Reds were also interested in Glasnow after failing in their pursuit of Sonny Gray. Glasnow should have a large market.
The question is what it would take to pry Glasnow away from the Rays, who have pitching needs that we’ll get to momentarily, and who is willing to pay that price. Winter meetings are the perfect time to figure this out.
Presumably, Glasnow’s market will only fully take shape after top free agent starters are signed. Clubs willing to spend on high-end pitchers can do so to sign Blake Snell or Yoshinobu Yamamoto, meeting their needs without touching their farm system. Teams that don’t land them but still want an ace could then aggressively look to the Rays for Glasnow, the Brewers for Corbin Burnes, the White Sox for Dylan Cease, etc.
2. How will the Rays strengthen their rotation?
The Rays are in the unusual position of needing to acquire depth for their starting rotation while also likely looking to deal Glasnow, which would create a need for additional depth.
Shane McClanahan will not pitch in 2024. Jeffrey Springs and Drew Rasmussen won’t be back until at least midseason. Potentially take away Glasnow, and you’re looking at a combination of Zach Eflin, Aaron Civale, Zack Littell, Taj Bradley, Shane Baz and Jacob Lopez. (Note: Littell has thrown nearly twice as many innings this season as the year before, and Baz will likely be limited in his return from Tommy John surgery.)
Obviously there’s room for an extra arm or two. THE free agent class is stronger on the pitching side, which is fortunate for the Rays, but the demand is also high. Everyone needs to throw. There are other paths forward beyond free agency, however, which brings us to another question.
3. Could they handle an infielder?
The Rays’ short- and long-term future at shortstop appears uncertain as long as Wander Franco remains under investigation, and their immediate needs are further clouded by Taylor Walls recovering from right hip surgery this offseason.
Yet the Rays have more players in the infield/DH mix than they have roster spots. Besides Franco and Walls, they have Yandy Díaz (first/third), Brandon Lowe (second), Isaac Paredes (first/second/third), Harold Ramírez (first/DH), Luke Raley (first/outfield/DH), Jonathan Aranda (first/second/third), Osleivis Basabe (shortstop/second/third) and Curtis Mead (second/third) as MLB-ready options, with top prospect Junior Caminero (third/shortstop) also on the list after his late start to the season this year. Tampa Bay also recently added Hope #26 Austin Shenton (first/third) to his 40-man roster to protect him from Draft Rule 5.
The Rays could get around this logjam in several ways. Aranda, Basabe, Mead and Caminero could start in the minors until there is a need in the majors. Ramírez could be traded to free up DH’s bats and reduce their large class of arbitration-eligible players. Or could Tampa Bay consider trading a more experienced player, like Paredes or Lowe, to bring back a more impactful returner, perhaps even a young starting pitcher?
4. Will Manuel Margot to move?
Margot has been a solid player with the Rays, someone capable of impressive streaks at the plate (especially against left-handed pitchers) and impressive defense all over the outfield. But he’s reportedly attracted interest from both New York clubs, with the Yankees’ interest dating back at least to the trade deadline, and he still seems like a likely candidate for a trade.
The veteran is the subject of this speculation because of his salary, which represents a significant part of a payroll expected to exceed $120 million, and the situation on the field of Tampa Bay. Jose Siri is expected to return to center field, flanked by Randy Arozarena and a combination of Josh Lowe, Raley and Ramírez.