According to a report in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Tampa Bay Rays are in serious trade talks with the Pittsburgh Pirates about acquiring All-Star outfielder Jason Bay.
With the trade deadline nearing, Tampa Bay Vice President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman has been actively searching for a right-handed bat to help to add to an offense that has struggled to score runs at times.
The report also indicated that “an elite prospect,” someone along the lines of Wade Davis or David Price, has not been offered, making it around “50/50” that the outfielder will remain a Pirate.
Friedman is unlikely to part ways with any high-level prospects. However, the organization has enough depth to offer up a multi-player package with several mid-level prospects to land Bay, who is having a nice comeback season for the Pirates.
Friedman is great at finding value, picking up players who are undervalued on the market and on the low. Right now, Bay’s value is fairly high, as he has put together a productive season. The 29-year-old outfielder, who will become a free agent at the end of 2009 and would not be a two-month rental, is batting .284/.377/.523 with 22 home runs and 62 RBIs.
Bay, a Canadian native, is currently among NL leaders at his position with a .900 OPS as well. While he would undoubtedly upgrade the Rays’ offensive attack—which ranks in the middle of the pack in nearly every meaningful statistical category—if he can continue to produce like he has in ’08, he is coming off a poor campaign in which he posted a disappointing .745 OPS. Also, the former Rookie of the Year is only batting .193/.337/.349 against southpaws, albeit in a small sample size of 83 at-bats. The defense that he provides in left field—it will be interesting to see where he ends up if he is shipped, with Carl Crawford among the best defenders at the position—also leaves a bit to be desired.
Bay makes a lot of sense, though. He is due to make $7.5 million in '09, the last year of his four-year, $18.25 million contract. While he would instantly become one of the Rays' highest-paid players, the remaining money left on the deal would be considered a bargain if he can continue to produce, given the state of the economic market for baseball players today.
Of the available players still on the market, Bay is perhaps the strongest candidate to help the Rays down the stretch if an agreement is reached. Still, often times these deadline deals fail to live up to the hype, with the Mark Teixeira situation in ’07 being the perfect recent example. If Friedman can acquire his services at a reasonable price, without risking any legitimate prospects in a package, then he should definitely pull the trigger as he attempts to guide the franchise to its first postseason appearance. If the Pirates demand a that “elite prospect,” though, this deal will most likely not happen—even though Bay could help the Rays next year, and then bring in a pair of compensation picks once he bolts for free agency.
“50/50” seems about right.
If the gap between the two teams cannot be reached, the Rays reportedly also have their eye on outfielder Jayson Werth, who kills lefties and is batting .272/.358/.485 with 14 homers and 40 RBIs for the Philadelphia Phillies.
To reach Tyler Hissey, send an email to TylerHissey@gmail.com.