Yankees, Mets Have Discussed Manuel Margot Trades With Rays

The Yankees have “engaged the Rays in multiple conversations this offseason” relating to outfielder Manuel Margot, reports Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. It has recently been reported that the Rays have been discussing Margot with multiple clubs and Rosenthal reiterates that. Joel Sherman of The New York Post adds that the Mets are interested as well.

Margot, 29, has been a solid contributor to this point in his career, largely serving as a strong defender with offense just a bit under league average. Since getting traded from the Padres to the Rays prior to 2020, he has hit .264/.317/.375 for a wRC+ of 97. He also stole 41 bases in that time while generally producing above-average defensive grades: +16 Defensive Runs Saved, +21 Outs Above Average and a grade of +1.9 from Ultimate Zone Rating. Those numbers slipped a bit in 2023 but they can often be inconsistent on a year-to-year basis and Margot was recovering from a significant strain of the patellar tendon in his right knee in 2022.

Going into the 2022 season, Margot and the Rays agreed to an extension that runs through 2024. He’ll make a salary of $10MM next year and there’s a $12MM mutual option for 2025 with a $2MM buyout. Since mutual options are almost never picked up by both sides, teams will consider Margot to have one year and $12MM remaining on his deal. That’s a perfectly suitable price point for a decent regular. Jackie Bradley Jr. got two years and $24MM from the Brewers a few years back. Kevin Kiermaier got one year and $9MM from the Jays despite being 33 years old and coming off hip surgery. Eddie Rosario got two years and $18MM from Atlanta.

But the Rays have often traded away players as they approach free agency, both as a way to keep costs down and to perpetually restock their farm system. The club’s payroll for next year is currently slated to be $126MM, per Roster Resource. They’ve never gone beyond the $80MM range, per Cot’s Baseball Contracts. A few members of their arbitration class will likely wind up non-tendered and the club seems to have some willingness to push payroll upwards next year, but it seems like some cuts are still going to be necessary.

There have been some rumors about Tyler Glasnow trades of late, unsurprising given his talent and $25MM salary in 2024, but a Margot trade would surely be more palatable from Tampa’s perspective. Their rotation suffered a large number of injuries in 2023, with each of Shane McClanahan, Jeffrey Springs and Drew Rasmussen set to miss some or all of 2024 while rehabbing from surgery. Subtracting Glasnow would leave the club with a rotation of Zach Eflin, Aaron Civale, Shane Baz, Zack Littell and Taj Bradley. They might be able to get by with such a group but it’s much stronger with Glasnow in it and the club is surely aware how quickly depth can evaporate due to injuries.

Subtracting Margot from the outfield, on the other hand, would not appear to be as risky. They would still have Randy Arozarena, Jose Siri and Josh Lowe as regulars, with players like Luke Raley, Greg Jones, Jonathan Aranda, Vidal Bruján and Harold Ramírez having varying degrees of outfield capabilities as well. Even if the club considers that group unsatisfactory, they could patch together some extra depth via minor league deals and waiver claims. The cost savings of flipping Margot would be less than half of a Glasgow deal but the former would be more appealing in terms of roster construction.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman has frankly admitted that they need a couple of outfielders to be slotted next to Aaron Judge. They recently tried to insert Harrison Bader into their center field gap but he didn’t hit much and was often injured, eventually being placed on waivers as the 2023 season was winding down. Jasson Domínguez made his major league debut in Bader’s absence but required Tommy John surgery, leaving the club looking for answers there yet again.

Players like Jake Bauers and Estevan Florial are some of the options currently on the roster but the Yanks would surely like to upgrade there. Bauers hit .202/.279/.413 in 2023. Florial shows some exciting tools at times but he almost always strikes out around 30% of the time wherever he’s playing. Oswaldo Cabrera hit .211/.275/.299 last year in a utility role. Everson Pereira has similar strikeout concerns to Florial and hit .151/.233/.194 in his first 27 major league games.

Trades between division rivals can be tricky and the Yanks might also have caution about Margot’s injury history, something Rosenthal points out. The Yanks have been snakebit in recent years by seeing many of their acquisitions hitting the injured list, such as Frankie Montas hardly being able to pitch for them after being acquired from the A’s. Margot has gone to the injured list in each of the past four years, with his 125 games played in 2021 the only time he got into triple digits during that stretch.

As for the Mets, Starling Marte battled groin issues that kept him to 86 games of subpar production, making him an unknown going into 2024. Mark Canha and Tommy Pham were traded prior to the deadline and are no longer in the mix. Acquiring some outfield help to bolster the group around Brandon Nimmo makes plenty of sense. DJ Stewart went on a torrid hot streak late last year, hitting 11 home runs in 58 games, but he’s generally considered a poor defender. Acquiring a glove-first outfielder like Nimmo could push Stewart into a bench bat/designated hitter role.

The Yankees, Mets and other clubs with interest in Margot could also look to the free agent market for outfielders, but that would likely mean forking out more money than what Margot is set to make. Cody Bellinger is going to require a nine-figure guarantee while players like Teoscar Hernández and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. should get sizeable eight-figure deals. Even players somewhat similar to Margot, such as Kiermaier and Bader, are likely going to find multi-year deals somewhere.

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Title: Yankees, Mets Have Discussed Manuel Margot Trades With Rays
Author: Darragh McDonald

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