For the final segment of the Corey Hart trade series, I will be looking at a potential deal to the Tampa Bay Rays. I have thought for some time the Rays are the leading candidate to acquire Hart, as they have a lot of young pitching; something Doug Melvin is seeking.
Currently, the Rays have Ben Zobrist alternating between second base and left field. Zobrist is a really, really good player, but could be that much valuable if he was playing at second base (a position not usually frequented by offensive threats). If the Rays acquired Hart, that would move Zobrist to second base full time and Sean Rodriguez to the bench. It would also give the Rays the option of DHing Hart, seeing as Will Aybar isn't the best option for that slot. With all the options Corey Hart can provide for the Rays, it makes too much sense for them to acquire.
As to what the Brewers could pry away from the Rays, that's up in the air. As stated above, Doug Melvin is insistent on acquiring young pitching, so let's start there.
With the names of David Price, James Shields and Jeff Niemann, Davis was mentioned as next in line for the young stud staff in Tampa. However, this season, Davis has been anything but a stud. In 102 innings, he has struck out just 65 batters and allowed 43 free passes. To be blatantly honest, his 4.41 ERA has been very lucky. His 5.48 FIP and -0.1 WAR tell a much gloomier tale for Davis.
That's not say Davis doesn't have ability though. Since being drafted in the 3rd round of the 2004 amateur draft, Davis was very good in the minors. In 138 minor league starts, Davis had a 3.28 ERA. Over 767.1 innings, he fanned 745 batters, while walking 283. Those are pretty good numbers.
However Davis is already pitching in the major leagues, which could be looked at as a positive and negative for the Brewers. Sure trading for Davis would immediately give the Brewers a major league ready starter, but he service clock has already started ticking. Granted it is still well under one full season, but any used time can be considered as something the Brewers don't want to see. In short, I'm not saying Davis is a bad pitcher, but he is not the type of pitcher I would like as a return for Hart. There are just too many question marks that go along with him.
You may remember Hellickson from starting the Futures Game last week in LA. Hellickson, 23, is one of the best pitching prospects in all of baseball. With a very strong rotation already, the Rays may be willing to part with Hellickson.
This season, Hellickson is 12-3 with a 2.51 ERA at AAA Durham. He has struck out 119 in 114.2 innings with only 35 walks. Every scouting report I have seen says Hellickson is a sure fire ace and should be the main target in a trade for the Brewers.Of course this all hinges on the Rays and if they want to part ways with Hellickson. He is yet to throw an inning in the major leagues, giving him six full seasons before he can hit the free agent waters. Combined that with the ability he possess and prying him away from the Rays could be tough.
I have started to hear Moore's name surface more in recent trade talks with the Brewers. Moore, 21, is currently pitching at Single-A Charlotte. After being drafted in the 8th round of the 2007 amateur draft, Moore has spent parts of two seasons with the Rays. In that time, he has pitched 301.2 innings and averaged 12.7 K/9. Control has been a little bit of an issue with 158 walks, but he still maintains a really strong K:BB ratio.
The one main drawback for the Brewers with Moore is how far he is away from the major leagues. Despite having incredible stuff, I would imagine the Brewers would take their time maturing Moore. The one thing that scares me is the Brewers are in a win now mindset and might pass on Moore just because he couldn't contribute right away. I think he would be able to hit the majors by 2012. With Fielder's contract running out after next year, the Brewers might not want to wait until then for another arm in the rotation.
Joyce, 25, is a name I haven't heard yet, but could be a very nice piece to look at for the Brewers. He is currently spot starting in right field for the Rays, but receiving much playing time. This season, he has posted a .220/.387/.441/.827 line in just 75 at bats. His high walk rate is no fluke though. Throughout the minor leagues and during his brief tenure in the bigs, Joyce has always been a very patient hitter. At every level he has maintained a near 10% walk percentage, while still showing power.
The one main problem in shipping Hart is the Brewers absence of a corner outfielder to fill the void. The only upper level outfield prospect the Brewers have is Lorenzo Cain and he is a centerfielder. By adding Joyce, the Brewers would have that option and still have it under plenty of control. Joyce is still yet to rack up a full year of service time and would come very cheap for the next five seasons. Another reason the Rays would be willing to part with Joyce is the abundance of outfield prospects they enjoy. Waiting in the wings are both Fernando Perez and Desmond Jennings. Granted Perez' stock has fallen off late, but he does still hold some value.
If Hart come back healthy in the next couple of days, I really expect a deal to get done with Tampa. If the Hellickson offer is on the table, by all means take it. However, if Hellickson is not offered, it gets a bit more complicated. In a deal for either Moore or Davis, I would require Matt Joyce also be included. Sure the Brewers would be selling very high on Corey Hart, but he is a high value player based on this season. In deadline deals, recent stats tend to outweigh past success. There are few outfielder available who can match Hart's success this season, so acquiring top-level talent shouldn't be a problem.