By: Will Burchfield
The Tampa Bay Rays are eyeing Justin Wilson as the solution to their bullpen problems.
Per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, “there is some traction in talks” between the Rays and the Tigers regarding a potential Wilson trade.
The Rays, 49-44, are first in the A.L. wild card but their bullpen has been one of the least effective in baseball. The team’s relievers have pitched to a 4.40 ERA, which ranks 22nd in the league, and have combined to blow 16 saves, tied for the second most.
Their closer, Alex Colome, leads the A.L. in saves (26), but also has a less-than-stellar 3.67 ERA. The bullpen is only shakier behind him.
Wilson is in the midst of a career year and is controllable through 2018. He’s a perfect fit for the small-market Rays, both in the short term and the long term. With five prospects in Baseball America’s midseason top 100, Tampa has the farm system to facilitate a deal.
However, per Joel Sherman of the New York Post, the Rays are balking at the Tigers’ asking price.
MLB.com’s Jason Beck adds that though the Tigers are “getting a ton of interest on Wilson, nothing (is) close to a deal yet.”
It’s unknown how much Detroit is asking in exchange for Wilson. But they are right to set their demands high.
The 29-year-old lefty has a 2.29 ERA, a 0.91 WHIP and 12.7 K/9 over 37 appearances this year. He has converted nine of 10 save opportunities since taking over for former closer Francisco Rodriguez in May. What’s more, he’s owed just $2.7 million this season, about $950,000 prorated over the final two months.
The Rays are unlikely to part with their top two prospects, shortstop Willy Ademes (No. 13 overall) and pitcher Brent Honeywell (No. 14). But outfielder/first baseman Jake Bauers (No. 64) and outfielder Jesus Sanchez (No. 100) could both appeal to the Tigers given the lack of positional depth in their farm system.
On MLB Network’s High Heat on Monday, Detroit GM Al Avila said he expects to make a couple deals before the July 31 trade deadline.
It bears mention that the Rays have expressed interest in a multitude of relievers, including Tony Watson of the Pirates and Pet Neshek of the Phillies, per Fox Sport’s Ken Rosenthal.
They are “clearly intent on upgrading (their) bullpen,” Rosenthal adds.
Per MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand, the “Rays (are) interested in every reliever that has any slim chance…of being available.”
So if Tampa doesn’t feel comfortable with the Tigers’ asking price for Wilson, they’ll likely look elsewhere.
MLB.com’s Jon Morosi adds that the Nationals “continue to show interest” in Wilson, even after acquiring relievers Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle from the A’s over the weekend.
Washington’s bullpen ranks last in the majors with a 5.31 ERA.