The Tampa Bay Rays are currently in fourth place in the AL East, which is unfamiliar territory for a team that’s usually competing for the divisional title. At 43-37, the Rays have received outstanding contributions on the mound from their staff, pitching to a 3.31 ERA as a group, which is fourth in the MLB. Cy Young frontrunner Shane McClanahan is dominating, while the rest of the rotation continues to do their part. But, this team is struggling to be consistent offensively, which means they should be looking for some upgrades at the MLB Trade Deadline.
Kevin Cash’s squad recently lost starting right fielder Manuel Margot to a knee injury, while Kevin Kiermaier spent some time on the IL, too. The Rays rank 22nd in runs scored, 23rd in team average, and 22nd in slugging. Moral of the story? They need help.
Here are 3 top targets for the Rays at the 2022 MLB Trade Deadline.
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3 top targets for Rays at 2022 MLB Trade Deadline
This is a player that’s expected to garner a lot of interest ahead of August 2nd because the Cubs are heading in a different direction and his contract expires in the winter. Willson Conteras is one of the best catchers in baseball and addresses an immediate need for Tampa Bay. After an All-Star campaign in 2021, Mike Zunino was struggling to produce at the plate this season and then got injured. Francisco Mejia and Rene Pinto haven’t fared much better either, both hitting under .230.
The Rays need a backstop who can come in, learn the staff quickly, and swing it. Contraras does just that. He’s batting .274 with 13 home runs and 35 RBI, boasting an OPS of .890. Contreras has championship experience and although he is shaky defensively at times, his offense is solid. This would cost Tampa some prospects, but if the Rays want to make a playoff push again, trading for Contraras is the move.
Why not bring in a familiar face? Tommy Pham previously played for the Rays for the second half of 2018 and all of 2019. During his time with the organization, the veteran hit over .300 with 28 long balls. Pham is versatile and can play numerous positions but most importantly, he’s the perfect type of player for Tampa, as we previously saw.
Pham becomes a free agent this offseason and right now, he’s playing for an atrocious Cincinnati Reds team who isn’t going anywhere. In 70 games in 22′, Pham is slashing .253 with 11 bombs and 34 RBI. He’s a sparkplug at the top of any lineup and can even play right field to make up for the loss of Margot. The 34-year-old knows what it’s like to be a member of this ballclub and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him interested in reuniting with the Rays. It gives Pham the opportunity to help them make a playoff run in the second half. Plus, he was a fan favorite. This is a deal Tampa should try to get done.
Andrew Benintendi is another player who is already on the radar of numerous contenders ahead of the MLB Trade Deadline. The Kansas City Royals are going absolutely nowhere and the outfielder is in the midst of a resurgent campaign. That means huge value for KC. Benintendi was once one of the best left-handed hitters in the American League during his time with the Boston Red Sox and is showing glimpses of his former self again this season. He’s batting .314 with a .780 OPS and although the home run numbers are low (just three bombs) Benintendi barely strikes out and does a fantastic job of drawing walks. He’s got terrific plate discipline and is the type of player the Rays like. In fact, his K percentage of 13 is the lowest of Benintendi’s career. He puts the ball in play and gives himself a chance on the basepaths.
Just like Pham, Benintendi is a free agent after this season. It could just be a rental but if things go well, he may even sign an extension with Tampa. At this point, he’s just wasting his talent in Kansas City. It only makes sense for Andrew Benintendi to go play for a team who is in the postseason mix. The Rays will face competition for his services, with the Blue Jays and Brewers two other teams that are keeping tabs on Benintendi. Left-handed hitting outfielders who are productive at the dish are hard to come by. The Rays’ outfield is arguably their biggest weak spot offensively and it’s absolutely crucial they find one or two upgrades. Benintendi could very well be the best option on this list.