Rays infielder Isaac Paredes has drawn trade interest from several teams, MLB Network’s Jon Morosi writes (X link), with the Mariners and Blue Jays among the suitors. There isn’t any indication that a deal is anywhere close, and it would have to count as something of a surprise if Tampa did move Paredes, considering both his ability and the fact that he is only now entering his arbitration years. He is projected to earn $3.2MM in the first of four arb-eligible years as a Super Two player.
As such, dealing Paredes wouldn’t bring many savings to the Rays’ 2024 payroll, estimated (via Roster Resource) to sit at a franchise-high $126MM. President of baseball operations Erik Neander is on record as saying the Rays are open to having such a relatively large payroll, yet that hasn’t stopped speculation that Tampa Bay might look to move such higher-salaried names as Tyler Glasnow, Manuel Margot, Brandon Lowe, Harold Ramirez, or even Randy Arozarena. Trading players as they become more expensive has been a longstanding way of business in Tampa, and there aren’t really many true untouchables on a roster that the Rays are forever looking to upgrade.
In this sense, selling high on Paredes now would net the Rays to a big trade return, and allow them to sidestep Paredes’ increasing arbitration price tag entirely. It seems possible that the Rays might also consider attaching a less-desirable contract like Margot or Lowe along with Paredes in a trade package — while this would lessen the return in terms of prospects or big-league ready players, it would get some money off Tampa Bay’s books and perhaps allow them to keep Glasnow as the backbone of a somewhat thin rotation.
The Rays’ attention to the budget is what brought Paredes to Florida in the first place, as Tampa acquired the infielder and a Competitive Balance Round B draft pick from the Tigers for Austin Meadows in April 2022. Meadows was owed $4MM that season in the first of three arbitration years, yet the Rays chose to deal him in what ended up being a wise move. Meadows has played in only 42 games since the trade due to vertigo and anxiety issues, and the Tigers non-tendered him last month.
Paredes, meanwhile, has blossomed in Tampa Bay, hitting .232/.333/.467 with 51 homers over 952 plate appearances since Opening Day 2022. This production has outpaced his projected numbers, as Paredes hasn’t made much hard contact, and ranked only in the sixth percentile of all batters in hard-hit percentage in 2023. On the plus side, it can be argued that Paredes has been hampered by a very low .232 BABIP over the last two seasons, and his strikeout and walk rates have been solidly above average. In the field, Paredes has spent most of his time at third base posting respectable defensive numbers, and he brings added versatility as a player capable of getting some action as a second baseman, first baseman, and emergency shortstop.
This skillset is particularly useful for teams like Seattle and Toronto, infield-needy teams who could use more pop in the lineup. The Mariners recently acquired Luis Urias to contribute to their infield picture, yet Paredes would be an improvement over Urias as a regular third baseman, so Urias and Josh Rojas could then work into a second base platoon. The Blue Jays also have a big hole at the hot corner with Matt Chapman now a free agent, and Paredes could potentially also contribute to the Jays’ unsettled second base position.
Mariners president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto has swung quite a few trades with the Rays during his tenure in Seattle, and it wouldn’t be a shock to see the two sides line up once more. That might seem a more realistic scenario than a notable swap between the Rays and Jays, as the AL East rivals unsurprisingly haven’t combined for many trades in their history. Tampa Bay would probably prefer to not have to deal with Paredes as an opponent in the coming seasons, while the Blue Jays might not relish facing any of their own young talents that they might have to deal away to facilitate such a swap.
Speculatively, Tampa could target a controllable young pitcher like Bryce Miller or Bryan Woo as part of a Paredes trade. With the Mariners targeting contact hitting, Paredes would be a better fit at third base for the club than the free-swinging Eugenio Suarez, who was already dealt away to the Diamondbacks. Any major salary relief probably might not factor into such a Rays/Mariners deal since it isn’t clear how much the M’s are able or willing to spend this winter, considering that the Suarez trade was made in part to reduce salary. On this front at least, the higher-spending Blue Jays might be in a better position to take some money off Tampa’s books.