Every year around this time, it seems the Rays are sellers. It has become a tradition for the team to trade away veterans with expiring contracts for a heap of young talent. This makes sense for a small-market team with a low budget; trading away players expected to receive a contract bump for some kind of return is a logical move for a team who cannot afford to sign players to large contracts. This is especially common for a team that doesn’t have a realistic chance at making the playoffs.
The Rays, however, are still in a position to win their division and make the postseason. Tampa sits 3.5 games behind the Yankees for first place in the AL East with a record of 37-35. Combined with the recent acquisition of veteran infielder Trevor Plouffe, Tampa seems to be in the midst of a midseason playoff push.
Though the Rays are in a position that would make them potential buyers, there is still a strong possibility the team will look to move on from Alex Cobb. Cobb in the last year of his deal and will look to sign a large contract this upcoming off-season. Being a small-market team and having a lot of pitching depth, Tampa can afford to move on from Cobb and remain in a strong position to make the postseason.
Alex Cobb is two seasons removed from Tommy John surgery and has struggled to return to form. He is 5-5 with a 4.17 ERA through 14 starts this season. Though he has had difficulty this far, Cobb is still a talented player and is the best available option for any team who needs to add an experienced pitcher to their rotation. A team would likely have to be in playoff contention to trade for Cobb, who is in the last year of his contract. Some possible trade possible partners include the Houston Astros, Texas Rangers, Chicago Cubs, and Colorado Rockies.
The Houston Astros have already been in discussions with the Rays, trying to acquire a pitcher. Tough their conversations centered around Chris Archer, Houston could look to acquire Cobb, especially considering previous negotiations fell flat. Cobb won’t yield as large of a return as Archer, but he could still bring in some talented prospects. The previous trade included top prospect Kyle Tucker. It isn’t likely Houston would deal him for just Cobb, but if the Astros want to solidify their team for a deep postseason push, a trade involving Tucker is a real possibility.
The Texas Rangers are not in the same position the Astros are in, but upgrading the third or fourth spot of their rotation could bolster their roster. With Beltre finally returning from the DL, the Rangers could try to move on from third baseman Joey Gallo. The team has already expressed a desire to move on from him, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if they look to again. The Rays don’t necessarily need to acquire a third baseman but Gallo can play first base or elsewhere in the infield. With all the injuries the team has accumulated, it wouldn’t hurt to add a quality young player. Gallo is only 23 years of age, and though he hasn’t lived up to his potential, he still has a lot of upside.
The Chicago Cubs have strong ties to the Rays. Manager Joe Maddon is very familiar with Tampa’s roster and has expressed interest in dealing with the Rays in the past. The Cubs aren’t in a great position at this point in the season and have disappointed thus far. Upgrading their rotation could help the team that already has a strong offense. The Cubs have a deep farm system, so there are a number of players the team could trade for Cobb.
The Colorado Rockies have surprised so far this season. The Rockies biggest weakness is their pitching staff and the lack of a true ace. Cobb likely won’t fill that role, but he would serve as a strong number two pitcher in their rotation. He’d be a huge upgrade from the players they already have, so if they are unable to find another trade partner, the Rockies might be willing to give up a hefty sum for Cobb.
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