Series Review: #24 Cleveland Indians & #25 Baltimore Orioles
Smart baseball fans know that the value of a single series or two is pretty overblown. With 162 games you can always make up that ground later if you can get hot, but these past two might have been poor enough that the franchise’s future will be altered dramatically in the coming days. The Rays have no won eleven of their past 35 and none of their last eleven. These last two were the culmination showing that it’s time for a new course.
Against Cleveland’s very good pitching the Rays bats were silent before coming alive against Baltimore’s less good pitching. The one constant was that the Rays couldn’t get anybody out in either series. In any game. The arms deserved to give up 61 runs over these seven games, and that’s not going to beat anybody. They lost all seven games and deserved every single loss. The closest they came to a win was the first game of the Baltimore series in which they wasted a pretty good start from Matt Moore who had to go longer than he should of thanks to the zero confidence bullpen the Rays are currently running.
It’s pretty rare to see a total of two relievers getting used in a three game set, but the Indians managed this feat with their bullpen tasked with getting a mere six outs. They came through. Kluber and Bauer pitched really well, but the Rays couldn’t deal the deathblow to Tomlin and they got enough offense to carry the day. They had a few batters do well, but the bigger component was that they had almost nobody do all that poorly with the sticks. Their bench combined for around a run worse than average, which was just fine when nobody else had a poor series.
The Rays batters did the opposite. They had a couple of guys perform very badly in Forsythe and Motter and only three batters showed above average performance with one of them a hit by pitch that sent Mikie Mahtook to the disabled list. The pitching wasn’t much better with Geltz and Erasmo pitching very poorly out of the pen and the starters being around average or worse. This is what it looks like when nobody steps up.
Then the team went to Baltimore and just completely fell apart. You can see that Adam Jones earned around half a win with his bat in this four game set, which is around a 20-WAR pace before even accounting for his defense, position, or playing time. Chris Davis continued to own the Rays and so did pretty much everyone else other than their glove-first shortstop and backup catcher. They rode a great start from Gausman, but the other three starters were gettable. The Rays hit them around, but when Buck turned to his bullpen it was light’s out at every opportunity.
As mentioned, the Rays hit a bit this series as a team putting up around what Adam Jones did on his own. Motter was the weak link with the bats, but otherwise the team hit pretty well with Brad Miller shining the brightest. It was also nice to see Oswaldo Arcia welcome himself to the team by having a very nice series. With the bat. He has no place in the field, but he’s not alone in that regard at the moment.
Moore pitched great and then he got extended too long, but still put up an above average game. Him and Romero were the only ones. Smyly and Odorizzi were impossibly bad as neither is a great fit against these flyballing Orioles. Andriese wasn’t bad in his start, but as predicted he was yanked third time through with the failpen coming in to get nobody out.
Even if this team gets healthy and hot they hole they have dug for themselves is far too deep to scale out of at this point. In the past week I have advocated spinning off assets that won’t be back next year like Steve Pearce and Logan Morrison, but I think it’s time to start looking longer term than these easy moves.
I’ve been reluctant to jump on the trade Longoria bandwagon because I have thought there was still a little more cream to scoop off of the top of his marvelous career and even better contract, but those times they are a’changin. If this team is going to give up on this year, as they should, and next year doesn’t look a whole lot brighter, then it makes sense to turn Longoria into the next batch of exciting talent.
He is at the crossroads where his value to the team will be in decline going forward, but he still has plenty enough to another that they would be willing to make a move for him in the right kind of deal. Additionally, Longo will earn ten-and-five rights after next season, which won’t make it any easier to move him. The time is now.
The key to finding a deal starts with looking at which teams make the most sense to acquire our stud third baseman. To me, it looks like the Astros have that very need as they’re getting next to nothing out of their current cast at the position. Yes, Alex Bregman can probably be moved there as just about any shortstop should be able to hold down the position, but what if he isn’t ready? The Astros have clawed through plenty of dirt to get back into a position where they can make the playoffs and then who knows. They’re one superstar bat away from having a complete lineup that can ensure they get where they’d like to go.
The nice thing for them is that even if Bregman is capable of playing right now, right this second, they could still move Longoria over to first base where he should still be good for above-average to star-type numbers giving them the most feared infield in the game filled with guys that can hit and field at an elite level.
The case has been built that the Astros have a need, but what do they have to offer. Assuming that Bregman is untouchable they still have a very good slugger that fits right into the wheelhouse of the Rays. A.J. Reed shows all the signs of being the rare guy that can combine good contact ability with very good power. He has done it at every level and should be viewed as a high floor guy that also has a very high ceiling if it all comes together. He would be the centerpiece of a hypothetical trade and with only two days of service could become the linchpin of the Rays offense for the next six and a half years.
As good as Reed is, however, it’s not enough for a star of Longoria’s calibre. The Astros feature another young slugger by the name of Derek Fisher who was almost included in the Ken Giles deal that would have sent him to Philadelphia. The lefty outfielder pairs average contact ability with above average power that would give the team the lefty slugger they need so badly in the outfield. In all likelihood he will be promoted to AAA soon, which makes him especially desirable, because the Rays wouldn’t have to wait around several years before he is done reaching his ceiling.
Lastly, I would want an arm in this deal. The guy that I would want is Francis Martes who has put up good numbers as an under-sized guy that will probably end up as a shutdown reliever. His biggest wart is an elevated walk rate, but the Rays have done well in the past to alleviate these concerns, and might be able to do enough with the lad to keep him in the rotation.
The Astros are a smart, well-run franchise that plays the game similarly to the Rays, in that, they are trying to win today and tomorrow. I think they would Evan Longoria as a good bet on continued production at very good salaries, and they’re currently in the position where their best players aren’t making anything, which should bode well for further offsetting some of what might be seen as a high cost down the road. They have a good team right now that can absolutely get better and the guys they’re giving up would be eminently replaceable.
This is a steep price to pay, but if they would give all three I’d be more than willing to include an arm like Drew Smyly that the team has been hoping they could move anyway. His value is absolutely in the tank right now, but he’s better than he has been of late and would certainly qualify as more than a throw in to the deal. He has little value to the Rays and I’m not sure they could get asking price for him in a deal on his own at the moment.
Where am I wrong?