Due to a sort of a self-imposed salary cap, the Tampa Bay Rays have to come up with creative ways to fill the holes on their roster. They have to find cheap alternatives and hope they catch a hot streak. We saw examples this past season with the signings of Grady Sizemore and Daniel Nava.
This is why the Rays should consider the Los Angeles Dodgers as a trade partner in acquiring Yasiel Puig.
Joel Sherman, of the New York Post, recently reported on how Puig has fallen out of favor with the Dodgers and some health concerns which may not be favorable for his future production. This creates a situation where it may not take a lot to acquire him in terms of a trade package.
Admittedly, the Rays do not need another outfielder. They have their own roster decisions to make with a group which consists of Steven Souza, Kevin Kiermaier, Desmond Jennings, Brandon Guyer, Daniel Nava and the emergence of Mikie Mahtook. There are also free agent decisions to make with John Jaso and Sizemore.
However, what the Rays do need is offensive production (power) and a little bit of star power.
Puig has been an offensive force since coming into the league in 2013. That year, he slashed an impressive .319/.391/.534 and in 2014, .296/.382/.480 with WAR values of 4.1 and 5.3, respectively. Will these numbers remain in the past, or will we see more of a 2015 campaign where he struggled to stay on the field resulting in .255/.322/.436, 1.5 WAR season? Steamer projects a 2016 season more in line with his first two seasons with .285/.359/.489, with a WAR of 4.3. That is something the Rays definitely can use in the middle of the lineup, if Puig can stay healthy of course.
Puig’s contract can be considered “Rays friendly” as he is owed $19.5 million over the next three years, excluding signing bonus.
But what would the Dodgers ask for in return? It seems an Andrew Friedman-led front office understands what a bargain they have with Yasiel Puig. But, what doomed the Dodgers in 2015 was not a lack of talent. It was arguably a lack of team unity. This could be a classic case of addition by subtraction.
A trade package of two young MLB-ready players and one or two mid-range prospects may be a good deal given what is available to the Rays.
With Puig on the roster an outfielder should be part of any deal. Desmond Jennings comes to mind as his salary is starting to rise (but peanuts for the Dodgers) and a change of scenery could do some good as expectations were high with the Rays since being called up.
(Side note: would be ironic for Jennings to wind up on same team as Carl Crawford, his predecessor)
However, Brandon Guyer may be a more logical choice as his grittiness may be a better fit for what the 2016 Dodgers should be.
The second piece would most likely be a starting pitcher. The Rays have a surplus of young controllable pitching and the Dodgers could use some depth. Ideally, Nate Karns would fit, but after the successful season Erasmo Ramirez (11-6, 3.75 ERA, 3.76 FIP) had, he could immediately help the Dodgers starting rotation. Also, this could open a rotation opportunity for highly touted LHP Blake Snell when he is ready.
This leaves us to what mid-range prospects are available.
There are some 40-man roster decisions looming for the Rays in regards to RHP Jacob Faria, RHP Dylan Floro, OF Tyler Goeddel, and 3B Patrick Leonard. A trade of one or two from this group could aid in those decisions.
So from an on-field perspective a trade can help the Rays offensively. Another potential outcome to Puig becoming a Tampa Bay Ray is the marketing opportunity with the Cuban community in the region. The attendance issue is well documented. Perhaps a young Cuban player like Puig could energize the fan base. Tampabaybaseballmarket.com has written about this here.
In the end, would it be a high risk move for the Rays? YES. But given some of the financial restraints they have the high reward that could come with a dynamic player like Puig entering his prime years could be worth it.