ST. PETERSBURG - AUGUST 17: Shortstop Jason Bartlett #8 of the Tampa Bay Rays fields a ground ball against the Texas Rangers during the game at Tropicana Field on August 17 2010 in St. Petersburg Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
Honestly, I don't know. But what I do know is that the Rays are reportedly closing in on a deal that will ship the 31-year-old shortstop somewhere, and numerous teams are interested now that many of the other obvious middle infield options on the market, namely Jhonny Peralta, Ryan Theriot, Juan Uribe and Tsuyoshi Nishioka, are no longer available. With 25-year-old Reid Brignac already in tow, the Rays are looking at a Bartlett deal to save some money given that he's arbitration-eligible, but he's not likely to be overpaid next season and has apparently garnered solid interest among the other 29 teams.
Among the teams that are reportedly talking to Tampa Bay are the Cardinals, Orioles, Giants, Padres and Pirates- none of them should be too shocking given that they could all use some help at shortstop with the exception of the Cardinals, who acquired Ryan Theriot from LA today after the previously linked Bartlett report came out. Bartlett's been Tampa Bay's primary shortstop for three years, and prior to that he spent a couple years doing the same in Minnesota. Given the salary and the track record, it's fair to assume that teams are looking at Bartlett as a starter. FanGraphs took a look at the former Twin's availability last week, concluding that he'll likely be worth his price, but that the Rays shouldn't expect more than a decent B-level prospect in return.
Using that as a baseline, let's take a look at how four of the previously mentioned five teams could match up with Tampa Bay, in order of apparent need. We're excluding St. Louis here because Theriot is reportedly going to be used at shortstop, which severely cuts their need to aggressively pursue Bartlett.
Fox Sports reported like 25 minutes ago that the Giants have intensified their pursuit of Bartlett after seeing Uribe and Theriot come off the market, and I think it's pretty reasonable to say at this point that San Francisco is the relative favorite to land Bartlett. With the twin departures of Uribe and Edgar Renteria, this team is in dire need of help at shortstop. When Emmanuel Burriss and Mike Fontenot are the two most obvious replacements on your roster, that's generally a sign that help is needed. But it's also worth noting that the Giants have a couple of intriguing, glove-first shortstops that could potentially be ready by 2012 in Ehire Adrianza and Brandon Crawford, so they're probably not seeking a long-term solution here.
That's exactly where Bartlett fits in. San Francisco is presumably used to mediocre defense at this point after watching Renteria and Uribe dominate the playing time there in the past couple seasons, and Bartlett would be a multi-win upgrade on what they have right now.
The Giants aren't exactly loaded with high-quality minor league talent after watching Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner graduate, but they have some pieces that should interest the Rays. You'd have to imagine that Brandon Belt, Zach Wheeler and Gary Brown are off-limits in trade talks regarding Bartlett, but they could have interest in one of the team's intriguing relief prospects, like Jose Casilla or Jorge Bucardo. Some other guys that could interest Tampa are second baseman Charlie Culberson (who got great reviews in the AFL), third baseman Chris Dominguez, and former Rangers pitcher Michael Main.
They're probably not one of the favorites to land Bartlett, but they could definitely use some middle infield help. They currently have Everth Cabrera and Jarrett Hoffpauir as their most obvious everyday double-play combo for next season- they're not going to contend all season again with that kind of middle infield barring some unexpected improvements. Bartlett wouldn't light the world on fire, but he'd certainly be an upgrade considering how much the 24-year-old Cabrera struggled in his second MLB season.
They could take a lottery ticket on someone like lefty Aaron Poreda or outfielder Rymer Liriano. Another possibility, although a less likely one, is that the Rays and Padres could figure out some sort of Heath Bell-for-Jason Bartlett trade. Both are free agents after 2011 and both should have somewhat similar salaries, so it's not a totally unreasonable suggestion. I'm guessing that the Rays would love to get their hands on Bell.
It's not likely that Bartlett will be the difference between contending and having a very boring September, but the Orioles could really use some help at shortstop. If they don't figure out a deal for Bartlett, don't be surprised if they try to pry J.J. Hardy away from Minnesota or look to sign a veteran shortstop like Orlando Cabrera. But after a couple years of watching Cesar Izturis play shortstop primarily, I'm guessing that most Orioles fans would be pleased to have a shortstop that can actually hit the ball a little bit.
Baltimore's farm system doesn't have much depth once you get by elite prospects Manny Machado and Zach Britton, both of whom are far too valuable to be considered in a Bartlett deal, but there's enough there to make a deal if they have the desire. I'd be surprised if they were okay with dealing outfielder Xavier Avery, but they have a bunch of intriguing infielders: L.J. Hoes, Ryan Adams, Mychal Givens, Jonathan Schoop and Connor Narron. Unfortunately for Baltimore, though, none of them really project as everyday shortstops in the majors, and even if one of them does reach that level, it's not likely to happen for a couple years.
This one obviously isn't about winning in 2011, either. Rather, it's about trying to minimize the number of truly worthless hitters that are in their lineup, and it's hard to describe Ronny Cedeno's bat as anything but worthless. The Pirates probably aren't interested in potentially damaging their future much for a win or two of improvement next season. But if they can find some solid ground with Tampa Bay, Bartlett would really improve their offense and upgrade what's clearly the biggest black hole in their regular lineup.
It's tough to know who they'd be willing to talk about in trades, but they could match up well with Tampa if they're willing to move right-handed reliever Diego Moreno. The 24-year-old struggled upon reaching Double-A for the first time in 2010, but his fastball routinely touches 98 and he was absolutely dominant in High Single-A before the poor stint in Altoona.