By Kyle Johansen @kylejohansen on April 15, 2014
As a small-market team, the Tampa Bay Rays are in a constant state of selling high and buying low. As their marquee players approach free agency, it’s almost taken for granted that the Rays will deal those players away -- and why shouldn’t they? The Rays have always been able to replenish the Major League team and continue to stay competitive in the AL East every year against all odds. The 2014 season should be no different.
Matt Joyce was the subject of trade rumors this past offseason as the Rays and Mets were discussing a trade that would send Joyce to New York in return for first baseman Ike Davis. After the Mets rejected a straight swap of the two players, the Rays instead signed first baseman James Loney. Joyce will be arbitration eligible in 2015 before hitting free agency, and the Rays will likely use him as their primary trade chip.
While the Rays recently signed Yunel Escobar to a two-year extension, that contract may make him even more attractive to a trading partner desperate for a shortstop at the trade deadline. With top shortstop prospect Hak-Ju Lee almost Major League ready, Yunel Escobar will become expendable in the near future and the Rays will likely not pass up on a chance to add a decent prospect to their minor league system.
It seems as though Desmond Jennings just arrived on the scene in Tampa Bay, but the center fielder is already 27 years old and the Rays have exciting center field prospect Andrew Toles developing nicely in the minors. Last year Toles led the Midwest League in batting at .326 while stealing 62 bases. Brandon Guyer could take over in center until Toles is ready, and cashing in now on Jennings could net the Rays a haul they may not want to pass up.
Ben Zobrist epitomizes the Rays through his usage at multiple positions, a symbol of the Rays' ever-evolving roster and consistent success. While it’s difficult to imagine Zobrist on another team, it’s also difficult to imagine the Rays not capitalizing on his trade value while they still can. With minor league shortstop Hak-Ju Lee near Major League ready, the Rays may opt to reload their system by trading away Zobrist.
David Price will be a free agent after 2015, and the Rays can capitalize on his value by trading him sooner rather than later. Obviously, if the Rays are contending for a division title then David Price will most likely be dealt in the offseason. Trading Price is also complicated by the recent injuries to the Rays’ rotation, as Matt Moore will miss the season with Tommy John surgery. At some point, though, Price will certainly be traded.
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