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Trade rumor grade: One of the Rays starters to the Yankees?

There could be some AL East swapping about to happen.

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Washington Nationals v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images

It’s the 4th of July, so if you need some casual reading while you are avoiding your family at a barbecue or trying to pretend it’s not 100 degrees out at the beach, we’re here for you. Trade rumors don’t stop just because America’s having a birthday or whatever.

The rumor

The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reports that the Yankees have “expressed interest” in multiple starting pitchers currently available for trade offers, specifically both of the Mets’ top hurlers in Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndegaard as well as Rays standouts Chris Archer and Blake Snell. For the sake of focus, we’ll zero in on the Rays’ side of this equation.

Why it makes sense for the Yankees

As Rosenthal notes, they need another top starter behind Luis Severino and the market is thin. So Snell and Archer are a few great options when there aren’t many others to take a look at, especially when the Mets aren’t jumping at the chance to trade their ace to the Yankees.

Without a starter of Snell or Archer’s caliber, New York could be looking at a similar result as last year’s postseason where they didn’t have quite the same level of rotation strength as their competitors. Snell is working with a 177 ERA+ through 108.2 innings pitched this year, with a 1.012 WHIP and a 3.44 FIP. His SO/9 rate is over 10 and his BB/9 rate is the lowest of his career at 3.4. Archer, meanwhile, missed time due to an abdominal injury but has a 93 ERA+ through 76.2 innings, and although his SO/9 rate of 9.0 is lower than recent years the rest of his numbers are still respectable enough to help a team in need at the deadline.

Even though it makes sense that the Yankees would need them, it doesn’t totally make sense that the Rays’ asking price would align with what New York is willing to give up. Brian Cashman might be willing to pay the toll for Archer but almost certainly not for Snell. It will depend on what the rest of the market is asking for their own top pitchers, and how desperate the Yankees actually are as they assess their competition.

Why it makes sense for the Rays

The Rays are out of the postseason race and have been for some weeks, so they are listening to offers for at least some assets. With the Red Sox and Yankees at the top of the AL East and looking to stay there for some time, it doesn’t make sense for Tampa Bay to hoard players who will be free agents this season or the next.

So it will make sense for them to ship Archer out of town over Snell, as he is on the tail end of a 6-year, $25.5 million contract that has team options in 2020 and 2021. The asking price for Archer will probably be more reasonable, but can still net the Rays enough to help them in the future.

Snell isn’t arbitration eligible until 2020 and won’t be a free agent until 2023, so the Rays would be better off keeping him and hoping they will be able to be competitive sometime in the next few seasons with Snell as their ace. If they could somehow get a package of top prospects out of the Yankees, which is unlikely, then it would make a lot more sense to part with Snell now. It would take a lot for that to be the case though.

That’s all not even to mention that the Rays would have to be okay dealing top pitchers within the division where they could both come back to bite them in future seasons.

Rumor grade

B+. The Yankees looking for a top pitcher rings true, of course. But the likelihood of them giving up what they would need to in this situation is slim, especially looking back at the deals Cashman likes to make and the way his top prospects are valued. A deal for Archer seems far more likely than a deal for Snell, which gives this rumor a ring of truth. Whether both sides are able to actually agree is where the legitimacy drops off a bit.