Players to be named later are usually forgettable players. However, that is not always the case and it can be dangerous to jump to conclusions. Drew Pomeranz was quite notable when the Colorado Rockies acquired him from the Cleveland Indians in the Ubaldo Jimenez trade, and Sean Rodriguez has emerged as a solid player since the Tampa Bay Rays got him from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in exchange for Scott Kazmir. We had almost the full picture on the trade that sent Ryan Hanigan and Heath Bell to the Rays, but the player to be named later that the Rays were going to send to the Arizona Diamondbacks was described by Arizona general manager Kevin Towers as the “key to the trade.” Who was this player going to be that made the trade work out for all parties? As it turned out, it was Rays outfield prospect Todd Glaesmann, and now we can finally evaluate the trade in full.
Rays acquire C Ryan Hanigan from Reds and RHP Heath Bell from Arizona and trade RHP Justin Choate and OF Todd Glaesmann to Arizona.
Arizona acquires Choate and PTBNL from Rays and trades RHP Heath Bell and cash to Rays and LHP David Holmberg to Reds.
Reds acquire RHP David Holmberg from Arizona and trade C Ryan Hanigan to Rays.
For the Rays, the key to the trade was Ryan Hanigan, and they were willing to do what it would take within reason to acquire him. That was either going to be a straight prospect-for-player trade with the Cincinnati Reds or something a little more creative, and the Rays chose the latter option. At the end of the day, Holmberg was the type of prospect the Reds were hoping to get for Bell, and instead of giving up that type of prospect themselves, the Rays gave up two lesser pieces in Glaesmann and Choate and took a low-risk gamble on Bell.
Glaesmann’s raw talent is tantalizing, but whether he would ever harness it consistently remains in serious question. One year after being named the Rays’ Minor League Player of the Year, Glaesmann slipped to just a .240/.289/.378 line in 529 plate appearances at Double-A, striking out 110 times versus just 29 walks. Glaesmann has the ability to be a five-tool right fielder if he puts it all together, combining excellent bat speed and raw power with above-average speed and a great arm. The issue is his patience and pitch recognition, both of which remain major weaknesses at this point. Glaesmann just turned 23 in October, so he will have some time to figure everything out, but the Rays decided he was not worth the risk. Choate, meanwhile, is a middle relief prospect who spent last season at Short Season-A, and while he has a little potential, the Rays will replace him seamlessly.
Bell rebounded to an extent from his rough 2012 with the Miami Marlins, managing a 4.11 ERA, but the Rays will look at is his excellent 9.9 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9 to go along with a 1.6 HR/9 way out of line with his career norms. Bell’s fastball still hits the mid-90′s to go along with a good curveball, and with some better luck and a better defense behind him, he has the ability to put up a solid year at the very least. There is no guarantee whatsoever that Bell returns to the dominant form he showed with the San Diego Padres, but they can be reasonably confident that he will be a dependable setup option. The Rays are paying Bell $5.5 million in 2013, which certainly is not pocket change by their standards, but the Rays have to be confident they are getting at least a solid reliever and possibly more, and his flaws will be outweighed by the upgrade Hanigan will be to their catching corps.
The Diamondbacks feel that they pulled off quite a coup. Bell’s contract was a major annoyance, and they managed to unload him on the Rays while sending just $500,000. Holmberg is a solid prospect, but he was a never a high-upside player and the D-Backs have the pitching depth to stomach his loss without a problem. And while the trade-off from Holmberg to Glaesmann and Choate may be negative, the Diamondbacks see two players with potential plus additional payroll flexiblity, and the money they saved could make all the difference as they hope to make additional moves before the offseason is through.
Lastly, the Reds were merely spectators to the insanity happening between the Rays and D-Backs, but they got exactly what they hoped for out of this trade. Their signing of Brayan Pena to catch alongside Devin Mesoraco made Hanigan expendable, and the Reds were loooking for a solid future piece in exchange for one year of Hanigan (of course, the Rays subsequently extended him). Holmberg is exactly that, showing two plus pitches in his fastball and changeup to go along with two decent breaking pitches, and he could challenge for a big league rotation spot as soon as 2014. Turning a spare part into a potentially valuable player is always nice, and the Reds have every reason to expect that they will look back at this trade fondly.
This trade will have winners and losers, but each team involved was trying to do something different and accomplished exactly what they hoped for. The Rays got their catcher, the Diamondbacks got their payroll relief, and the Reds got the type of prospect they were looking for in exchange for Hanigan. People chastised the Diamondbacks before we heard about Glaesmann’s inclusion in the deal, but Arizona had the pitching depth to part with Holmberg, and they were never were going to get as good prospects as Glaesmann and Choate in exchange for Bell and his salary under any other circumstances. The Diamondbacks may not leave this trade as excited as the Rays and Reds, but they achieved positive results as well and were right to be a part of the deal.