Given that it's Tuesday of Winter Meetings week, we're deep into MLB transaction rumors and those are fun. We need to keep in mind differences in wording on these rumors, too, such as "shopping" vs. "listening." Absent examples like the Angels and Mike Trout, teams should pretty much always "listen" because you never know what someone is going to offer. On that note, here's a juicy Rays rumor regarding third baseman Evan Longoria, frontline starting pitcher Chris Archer and reliever Alex Colome:
Initial reaction: No surprise to see Colome's name while Longoria makes sense and Archer could land them the most in return. Let's take a quick look at each.
The right-hander enters his age-29 season having led the AL in saves last year with 47. He won't hit free agency until after the 2020 season, so he's a controlled closer for sure. There are some bad signs, though. From 2016 to 2017, Colome's ERA went from 1.91 to 3.24, WHIP went from 1.02 to 1.20 and K/9 from 11.3 to 7.8 while his walk rate rose. Consistency was an issue last year.
Still, it's a high-quality reliever and several contenders are willing to cough up some prospects for back-end relief help.
From the Rays' perspective, he's just about to start getting expensive and could be regressing, so they strike while the proverbial iron is hot.
Once the owner of baseball's most club-friendly contract, Longoria's next deal is now becoming a burden on the Rays. He's due a minimum of $86 million through the 2022 season (there's an option for 2023 with a $5 million buyout after his next five years and $81 million).
Longoria enters his age-32 seasons coming off a .261/.313/.424 line. He's still a good fielder at the hot corner, but he hasn't been worth 4.0 WAR since 2013. His contract would be a lot less of an eyesore on a big-spending team. I'm not sure he would have much value in terms of a prospect return, so this would be a salary dump.
Of course, perhaps the Rays attach him to ...
The right-hander is 29 and makes just a tick over $14 million in the next two seasons combined. Then there's a $9 million club option for 2020 and an $11 million club option in 2021. Think Archer would get more than four years and $34 million in free agency right now? (I'll pause for laughter).
Archer isn't an ace or anything -- in fact, the 101 ERA+ the past two years says he's pretty overrated -- but he's better than his deal. He's worked at least 194 innings in each of the last four seasons, pitching to a 3.66 ERA with 907 strikeouts in 809 innings (10.1 K/9). The two-time All-Star finished fifth in AL Cy Young voting in 2015.
If a team was willing to take on Archer and Longoria, the Rays could get their Longoria salary relief and possibly a decent prospect return. If the Rays just sold Archer on his own, they'd like get back something big, like two top prospects and some more depth.
To reiterate, though, the rumor only has the Rays "listening" and not "shopping" these guys. There's a very important distinction.