The Tampa Rays’ roster appeared to be all but set for the start of the 2014 season. Then the Rays decided to make a move. Chris Cotillo reports that the Rays are in the process of trading for San Diego Padres infielder Logan Forsythe, with Alex Torres part of the return for the Padres. At least three more players are likely involved in the trade, leaving much unanswered as of right now.
Forsythe, who just turned 27, is a versatile infielder with excellent career numbers against left-handed pitching. For his career, Forsythe has hit to .241/.310/.349 line (which amounts to an 88 OPS+ in the carnivorous Petco Park) in 762 plate appearances, but that mark jumps to .290/.363/.430 against lefty pitching. He has decent power, slamming 20 doubles and 9 homers per 550 plate appearances, and he has also been a very efficient basestealer, swiping 17 bases in 21 attempts. On the defensive side, meanwhile, Forsythe has been a primary second baseman but has also seen time at shortstop, third base, left field, and right field. His defense at those positions has been unspectacular across the board, but the one place where he stands out is third base, something that the Rays will appreciate when they rest Evan Longoria at DH. Third base also happens to be a position where Sean Rodriguez has drawn mixed reviews thanks to poor arm strength. Forsythe gives the Rays a righty bench option that shores up third base behind Longoria. He also makes Rodriguez redundant–Rodriguez isn’t part of the deal, but could he be a trade chip in the coming weeks?
On the other side, Torres is coming off a big rookie year and the Rays decided to trade him with his value at its peak. Torres went 4-2 with a 1.71 ERA, a 9.6 K/9, a 3.1 BB/9, and a 0.2 HR/9 in 39 appearances and 52 innings pitched. Why would the Rays trade him after he put up numbers like that? One major thing to note is that Torres was ordinary to end the year, managing just a 3.80 ERA and a 20-9 strikeout to walk ratio in his final 18 appearances and 23.2 innings pitched. Torres was bound to fall back to earth after his untouchable start, but combining that with his arsenal brings up reason for concern. His fastball is not so overpowering, averaging just 92.52 MPH and making him extremely dependent on his changeup. Torres’ changeup did not prove to be up to the task, with its whiffs per swing going down each month of the regular season from May to September and Torres’ slider not effective enough to pick up the load. This does not mean that Torres will have a great career as a major league reliever, but there are enough questions with him that the Rays deemed he was worth trading away. The bottom line with relievers is that they are replaceable, and the Rays will have a great bullpen even with Torres gone. Jake McGee, Cesar Ramos, Jeff Beliveau, Pedro Figueroa, and C.J. Riefenhauser represent other lefty relief options on the Rays’ 40-man roster.
Despite his questions, it is doubtful that the Rays would trade Alex Torres for Logan Forsythe straight-up right now and expect them to receive at least one or two notable prospects from San Diego in the deal. There is much we still don’t know, and it will be exciting to find out the entire picture on this trade. Stay tuned as the details come in.
Update (11:00 AM): Keith Law tweets that the Padres prospects in the deal will be Matthew Andriese, Brad Boxberger, and/or Matt Lollis. Andriese would appear to be the key to the deal as a 24 year old right-hander with a sinker in the 91-94 MPH range and a bevy of solid secondary offerings. Boxberger, meanwhile, has eerily similar stuff to Torres as a right-hander pitch, throwing a low-90′s fastball, a great change, and a slider. Boxberger finished 2013 with 18 strong appearances in the Padres bullpen, and he could take Torres’ spot in the Rays’ relief corps. Finally, Lollis is coming off a couple of rough years, but he may have the best stuff of any of them. The 6’9″ right-hander touches 97 MPH with a knee-buckling curve and a changeup. He is also just 23 and has plenty of time to develop into a late-inning type of reliever.
Law also contributes that the Rays could be giving up right-hander Jesse Hahn in the deal. Hahn has seen nothing but success so far as a pro, but the 24 year old has struggled through injuries and has yet to pitch above A-ball. The Rays limited to just two starts of 5 innings or more in all of 2013. Hahn has good sink on his fastball and shows flashes with his slider to go along with a solid changeup, but his injuries make him more likely to end up in the bullpen and his injuries still give him plenty of risk.
If Law’s sources are correct, the deal would be Torres and Hahn for Forsythe, Andriese, Boxberger, and Lollis. Essentially the Rays would be trading a solid relief arm and a talented but risky prospect for a utility player, a good starting pitching prospect, another solid bullpen arm, and another reliever with late-inning potential.
Update (3:30 PM): The Rays are actually getting one more piece in the deal, infielder Maxx Tissenbaum. Tissenbaum, 22, was the Padres’ 11th round pick in 2012 and had a good season in 2013, hitting to a .277/.365/.359 line with 28 doubles, 2 homers, and 49 RBI in 111 games and 490 plate appearances at Low-A Fort Wayne. He is a second baseman in the Tommy Coyle/Tyler Bortnick mold who stands out for his plate discipline and has a chance to be a big league utility player. The more the merrier for the Rays at this point.
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