The Rays have previously been mentioned as potential suitors for Willson Contreras, but they’ve remained on the periphery for a few reasons. One is that they tend to fly under the radar during rumor season and the other is that most folks feel dealing with the Tampa is asking to be hoodwinked. However, Jon Heyman is reporting that they are definitely in the market for a catcher (the blurb is near the end) after officially ruling out Mike Zunino due to thoracic outlet syndrome surgery.
Now it’s just a matter of seeing how big they way to swing.
We know they are at least willing to entertain a blockbuster-level transaction based on last year’s unrealized package deal for Kris Bryant and Craig Kimbrel, so acquiring Contreras and a reliever isn’t out of the question. At the same time, Tampa recently picked up Christian Bethancourt and might prefer to target a much lower-cost option like Tucker Barnhart. That would certainly be the case if they are truly looking for a catcher rather than a big offensive upgrade who also plays catcher.
Even if the rumblings of concern over Contreras’s ability to mesh with a pitching staff are smoke meant to drive his value down, teams aren’t picking him up for the next two months based on his defensive prowess. Barnhart is basically the opposite of Contreras in that regard and the Tigers won’t be seeking much after opting not to extend him. Pedro Severino has played in just six MLB games since serving an 80-game PED suspension and could be available if the Brewers don’t feel like keeping him around as a backup.
Put it all together and I don’t see the Rays as big players for Contreras unless his market completely collapses.