We are about to find out if the Red Sox have turned the corner with their play and whether or not they are contenders in the AL East. The Sox begin an eight game road trip in as many days with a brief stop in sunny Florida for a two-game series against the arch rival Tampa Bay Rays.
The Rays are going step for step with the Orioles atop the division despite going through a rough stretch recently that saw them lose 6 of 7 games. The injury bug has hit the Rays recently as both Desmond Jennings and starter Jeff Niemann were placed on the DL where they join all-star third baseman Evan Longoria. But the injuries do not appear to have affected the Rays winning mentality as they just keep on trucking.
We collaborated with Rays Colored Glasses editor, Robbie Knopf to seek answers about what is making this Rays club winning without some key pieces. We also talked about the rookie phenom Matt Moore and whether the Rays could make a trade to upgrade their offense. Enjoy.
1. First Evan Longoria went down to injury, now Desmond Jennings and Jeff Niemann suffered injuries that’ll see them on the DL. Yet the Rays continue to keep pace in the meat grinder AL East. What has been the main reason for this?
The Rays are renowned for their pitching depth, so that will help them survive the Niemann absence and likely do just about as well. Wade Davis, Alex Cobb, and Chris Archer are candidates to replace Davis in the rotation…. That’s obvious. You don’t need to know anything about the Rays to say that. The bigger question is how the Rays have survived the presences of Longoria and Jennings not being in the lineup.
The answer is that you can’t underestimate the versatility of the Rays’ roster. The Rays have several players who can slide into whatever position is vacant: Ben Zobrist, Sean Rodriguez, Elliot Johnson, Will Rhymes, and Jeff Keppinger. Are those guys great? Zobrist is a very good all-around player, but the others don’t exactly knock you off you feet. But when you have that many guys fighting for available playing time, someone has to get hot. Right now, it has been Rodriguez and Johnson who are playing extremely well and Zobrist starting to come on as well to go along with guys like Matt Joyce who have played well all season. Defensively, the Rays are missing Longoria and Jennings and it has shown in their team defense, but they still have more-than-capable players across the board. And then there’s the pitching. The Rays don’t need to score a ton of runs when their starting pitching and bullpen are on. A few disaster starts mixed with some bullpen struggles led to a 6 of 7 losses stretch recently for the Rays, but overall their rotation and bullpen have been very good and that puts less pressure on the offense.
2. Matt Moore is struggling this year and now with Niemann on the DL and a boat load of prospects waiting in the wings along with Wade Davis in the bullpen, what do you believe the Rays will do with Moore?
Moore has been hit hard. There’s no two ways about that. But his stuff remains electric and the only issue has been command. This is something that has afflicted Moore before, especially early in seasons. This isn’t a case where his velocity is down or his curveball isn’t breaking sharply. This isn’t a Phil Hughes or Brett Cecil situation. His repertoire looks as good as ever. If he gets his command consistently he’s going to even out his numbers with a crazy run of starts. The Rays will let Moore find himself out on the mound, and when he does, watch out. It’s been frustrating to watch him get hit hard, but it’s only a matter of time until he rounds himself out.
3. In your opinion, should the Rays consider dealing some prospects for an upgrade to their offense?
I would absolutely not trade any highly-touted prospects, and there’s next to no chance they do. The only scenario that was a possibility was a trade of a pitcher like Alex Cobb, but with the Niemann injury, that’s out the window. The Rays don’t trade prospects for big leaguers. That’s not the way they operate. The Rays won’t trade prospects unless the deal is an absolute steal. Jesse Chavez for Rafael Soriano? Sure, why not. But you’re not going to see any of their legitimate low minors prospects traded and their upper levels are a little thin right now. I thought Tim Beckham might be trade bait, but with him suspended, that’s not happening.
The only conceivable scenario would be a trade for a catcher, but even then they would have preferred much more to trade a starter, and if they make a major trade I would expect it to be a blockbuster for a legitimate long-term catcher, not a Geovany Soto our Kurt Suzuki type. I don’t think that type of player is realistically on the market right now. I’m not entirely against trading prospects for a stud catcher on principle, but teams generally don’t deal stud catchers. I would be extremely surprised if that type of deal or any type of trade where the Rays dealt noteworthy prospects happened over the course of this season.