ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – With the winter meetings slated for next week in Nashville, there are several moving parts swirling around the Tampa Rays. The most prominent is the future of right-hander Tyler Glasnow, considered the titular head of the Rays’ rotation.
Also, the future of infielder Wander Franco, who remains under investigation for engaging in appropriate relationships with minors, remains uncertain as is outfielder Manuel Margot, who, if he makes the team this spring, could be a fourth outfielder. For 2024, Margot is scheduled to earn $10 million in 2024 and the Rays have a $2 option for 2025.
At best, Margot is a marginal player and appeared in 99 games and hit. 264. For an eight-year career native of San Cristobal, Dominican Republic has a .255 batting average.
If the Rays’ organization is concerned about losing Margot, a hidden anxiety could center around the possible departure of outfielder Randy Arozarena. For 2024, Arozarena is designated as a Super 2, and encompasses players with three years of major league service who are eligible for arbitration.
Given his production with Rays and production and leadership with team Mexico in the 2023 World Baseball Classic, Arozarena will command a significant amount of money. Plus, teams who wish his service will likely part with players with whom they wish not to trade.
All of which puts the spotlight on owner Stuart Sternberg and his staff. The prospect of moving Arozarena is tempting and several teams are likely interested. One team that could benefit is the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Coming off their recent World Series appearance, Arizona lost left fielder Lourdes Gurriel, Jr. to free agency and Arozarena would appear a natural fit. There has been some discussion between the Rays and Diamondbacks, as reported by radio station 98.7 in Phoenix, but names have not been mentioned.
For the Rays to trade Arozarena, the asking price would be in prospects and the Diamondbacks farm system is sprinkled with attractive players. Given the challenges of Franco, the Rays could ask for infielders, number one prospect Jordan Lawler and Tommy Troy, Arizona’s number pick in the 2023 draft. Also, a pair of lefties could be attractive and include Tommy Henry and Blake Walston, the latter recently added to the 40-man roster.
Which team lands Arozarena or if he is retained by the Rays, the 28-yers-old will command a significant paycheck. The starting number could reach around $9 million per season. For Arozarena, this is a significant increase from the $4.15 million earned in 2023. At the same time, Arozarena has entered one-year deals each season since his first contract with St. Louis in 2019.
If Arozarena is attractive, his numbers could be a consideration.
Declining over his three-year Major League career, Arozarena enters the 2024 season with a career .265 batting average. At the same time, consider his batting average dropped in each year. In his first in the majors with the Cardinals, he hit .300 and then fell in each corresponding year to .254 in 2023. For his career, Arozarena has hit 71 home runs in 1756 at-bats.
All of which puts another dimension into the Rays’ thinking. With emphasis on Glasnow, Margot, strengthening the rotation and solving the dilemma surrounding Franco, the current off-season may be tempered with the possible movement of Arozarena for a decided piece of the Rays’ future.