Rosenthal: "Rays investigating Halladay, Lee"

“The Rays are engaged in a whirlwind of activity, investigating Lee, Halladay and numerous other options — “major, major stuff,” according to one source.
Payroll flexibility remains a significant obstacle, and the Rays might need to move left-hander Scott Kazmir or another high-priced player to clear room for a major acquisition.

There are no indications, however, that the Rays are discussing trades involving Kazmir, who is earning $6 million this season, $8 million in 2010 and $12 million in ’11 with a $13.5 million or $2.5 million buyout for ’12.”

That bit of surprising news came from Ken Rosenthal’s blog at FoxSports late this afternoon. Clearly, financial issues will drive any trade (hey fans – this is why being 26th in the league in attendance hurts!) so moving Kazmir or Crawford before the start of next season would become a necessity if either Halladay or Lee were to be acquired in a deal.

I am always a cynic and think that this is just noise to drive up the trade values of both players. Sure, the Rays have the prospects to match up with any of the contending teams that you here in these trade rumors. The difference between the Rays, Yankees, and Red Sox is that the farm system for the Rays is crucial for everything they do when their operating budget is two to three times less than the other teams in this division which does not allow the Rays to flex the dollars in the free agent market that Boston and New York do. The Yankees could trade Phil Hughes and Austin Jackson, get Halladay through next year, and easily have the cash in the wallet to sign him to his next contract. The Red Sox could trade Clay Buchholz and Lars Anderson and do the same thing. If the Rays give up someone like Wade Davis, or add Jeff Niemann to a deal, the effect of such a deal is felt long-term because there is no way the Rays could match the offers Halladay or Lee would get on the open market so the club loses the pitcher they acquired plus what they gave up after the 2010 season.

The organization is very deep in pitching talent with names like Davis, Jeremy Hellickson, Matt Moore, and Nick Barnese to name a few. However, with the understanding that the club will have nothing to show for either deal on paper after the 2010 season, making a deal for either pitcher is quite risky. The Rays would be rewarded with the first round pick of whatever club signed Halladay or Lee as well as a 2nd compensation pick between the 1st and 2nd round – and the Rays definitely know what to do with draft picks in the Andrew Friedman era. That said, the fruits of those labors would take two to three years to make an appearance on the major league roster if the picks were to work out which takes our timetable out to the 2014 season. Do the Rays have enough organizational depth to absorb the loss of pitching prospects that would help from 2011-2013? That’s for the front office to decide. Personally, throwing Halladay at the front of this rotation who is twelve games above .500 for his career against Boston and New York is quite the difference-maker in a very competitive AL East race. Cliff Lee has not been as effective against those teams but Lee is still an upgrade to any rotation at this time.

Color me excited as a Rays fan to actually be involved in trade rumors for the biggest name on the market. Hopefully this year, Bill Chastain does not jump the gun and announce the Rays have traded for someone when they have in fact not done so.

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About Jason Collette

Writer/Analyst
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