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“The Untouchables” at the deadline

The Rays have always been a team that makes little to no moves at the trade deadline…save for the 2014 season when they parted ways with David Price and brought over Drew Smyly, Nick Franklin, and prized INF prospect, Willy Adames. So it’s fair for fans to be pretty convinced they’ll do much the same at the 2016 deadline which is less than a week away, now.

However, rumors are heating up that teams are blowing up Matt Silverman’s phone over a few of their rotation arms. Chris Archer has been rumored to be in the conversation with the likes of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Texas Rangers. Matt Moore and Jake Odorizzi’s names have also come up in talks but the asking price for any one of these arms could be a bit too high for any of those teams. No doubt top prospects, like Rangers utility man, Joey Gallo, would absolutely need to be thrown in as a key piece to any deal. Reliever Erasmo Ramirez and INF Steve Pearce have also been tossed around in talks.

Safe to say a couple of months ago no one imagined the Rays would be talking about trading these prized arms in July. However the way the last two months have gone – it’s become an ugly reality. So the question arises – who’s untouchable at this point? To answer this question, you have to take off your “Rays-colored glasses” and look at it not only from the perspective of improving the team now – but how can you make sure that the Rays are competitive for years to come?

When Evan Longoria The Scrum Sports - Tampa Bay Rays - Evan Longoria 15 signed his blockbuster extension back in November 2012 that made him a $100M man, he stated he “always wanted to be kind of a benchmark player” and that his goal “from the beginning was to be the first player that played his whole career here.” Well the Rays control their “benchmark” player through the 2023 season where he’ll be making upwards of $19M in his final year before his team option in 2023. Longoria is on pace to finish 2016 with plenty of career highs and his defense speaks for itself night in and night out. Sure he’s not the vocal leader a lot of other teams have – but he’s a leader, nonetheless. He wants to be here now and he wants to be here years from now. You don’t trade a player of Longoria’s caliber and all the intangibles he brings to the clubhouse and the field. Even in the rebuilding stages that the Rays find themselves in – he’s a piece you want to have around to help with that process and for all those reasons, he’s arguably the most untouchable player on this roster.

Alex Cobb has yet to pitch more than 27 games in a single season. He did that back in 2014 before Tommy John surgery put him on the shelf. He was having a Cy Young-caliber year for the Rays that year, posting a 10-9 record with his second year in a row with a sub-3 ERA. With all do respect to Chris Archer, having Cobb come back by early August may lessen the blow if Archer were to be dealt. Most fans are of the opinion that Cobb is and has been the club’s true ace since David Price was traded and based on his numbers – they have a very good argument. The downside to keeping Cobb would be that in 2017 he becomes arbitration eligible and is a free agent come 2018. This year, not having thrown a single pitch outside of rehabbing, Cobb is already making $4M. If he comes back and proves he’s not missed a beat – he may become too expensive to keep around.

Prized lefty, Blake Snell, has proven he’s here to stay. The 2015 Minor League Player of the Year may make fellow lefties Matt Moore or even Drew Smyly expendable come the deadline. He’s only 23 years old and his power arm is one the Rays can’t afford to lose anytime soon. If the team can find a way to keep Cobb around a few more years – the 1-2 punch of these two at the top of the rotation will be as formidable as any in baseball for a long time.

Finally – outfielder and reigning AL Gold and Platinum Glover, Kevin Kiermaier. It can be argued he’s the best defensive player in baseball (sorry Trout) just based on his 2015 season alone. He won’t be a free agent until 2021 and still has a couple years left before arbitration. Defense aside – his offensive numbers don’t jump out at you, but his hustle and ability to turn singles into doubles and steal bases add to his value. He is an invaluable piece to this rebuilding puzzle that the Rays just can’t afford to lose.

I wouldn’t say there are any real prospects off the table at any level of the Rays system. Baseball is a funny business and prospects are dealt on a yearly basis – sometimes players you wouldn’t imagine a club would give up to better themselves now rather than later. But as far as the Major League roster is concerned – aside from these four players, I could see anyone else dealt with the right deal in place. It’s doubtful Archer, Moore, AND Odorizzi are gone come August 1st. That would be completely irrational and unlikely.

But baseball is a funny business.

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