Sep 25, 2013; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Padres relief pitcher Brad Boxberger (29) throws during the ninth inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Understanding the Rays’ Alex Torres-Logan Forsythe Trade

It seems like the Tampa Bay Rays have a quota of one blockbuster trade they have to make each and every offseason. With a David Price trade not a possibility, the Rays looked elsewhere, acquiring Logan Forsythe, Matt Andriese, Brad Boxberger,  Matt Lollis, and Maxx Tissenbaum from the San Diego Padres for Alex Torres and Jesse Hahn. Everyone loves blockbusters, but Torres was a key piece of the Rays’ bullpen last season and Hahn has shown promise as a prospect. Why did the Rays make this deal?

Alex Torres had a great rookie year for the Rays, managing a 1.71 ERA and a 62-20 strikeout to walk ratio in 39 appearances and 58 innings pitched. Torres was a major reason why the Rays bullpen weathered the struggles of Fernando Rodney, Jake McGee, and Joel Peralta at different points of the year to have another nice season. But as a reliever, and one without electric stuff at that, Torres was replaceable. As we discussed earlier, Torres’ fastball stays in the 92-93 MPH range and his changeup became less effective as the league adjusted to him, leading to subpar performance in his final 18 appearances. He does occasionally throw a slider, but it was not very effective. Torres’ stuff gives him the ability to be an interesting reliever, but less than spectacular stuff limits what he can do.

Just how easily can the Rays move on from Torres? As it turned out, they managed to acquire an extremely similar reliever in the deal in Brad Boxberger. Boxberger has a 2.72 ERA in 42 big league relief appearances, and although his control has been iffy (5.6 BB/9), the Rays see enough in his repertoire that 2014 could be the year he finally breaks out. Boxberger has almost exactly the same arsenal as Torres although as a right-handed pitcher, featuring a low-90′s fastball, an excellent changeup, and a solid slider that he uses quite a bit more. Despite being a righty, however, Boxberger has been significantly more effective against lefty batters, holding them to a .687 OPS compared to .790 by righties. What is going on? The answer is that Boxberger has used his great changeup almost exclusively against lefty batters, leaving him without a weapon to finish off righties, and that is something we know the Rays will look to correct. If the adjustment goes as planned, Boxberger should immediately replace Torres in the Rays’ middle relief corps and the Rays bullpen may not miss a beat.

Hahn is a prospect that a lot of people like, and the reason is obvious: he has great stuff. His fastball has touched as high as 97 MPH, and he combines it with a slider that flashes plus and a good changeup. Tampering that excitement, however, are Hahn’s age, injury history, and relative inexperience. Hahn is already 24 years old and he still has not pitched a single game above High-A. After the Rays drafted him in the 6th round of the 2010 MLB Draft, Hahn underwent Tommy John Surgery that prevented him from making his pro debut until 2012. In the two years since, Hahn has looked dominant, managing a 122-33 strikeout to walk ratio in 121 innings pitched, but injuries have continued to limit him. In 2013, he made 19 starts but he lasted as many as 5 innings in just two of them. Even that level of protection didn’t stop him form hitting the DL again. With that in mind, Hahn is unlikely to continue as a starting pitcher and will hope to find better health in shorter stints. His arsenal gives him the chance to thrive in that role, but all the obstacles in his way make his odds of success much lower than you would think. Hahn certainly has potential, but the Rays saw enough risk that it was worth giving him up.

Contrast Hahn with Matt Andriese. Andriese is just a month younger than Hahn, but he is a solid prospect with the ability to help the Rays as soon as this season. Andriese had a big season in 2013, going 11-7 with a 3.27 ERA, a 105-29 strikeout to walk ratio, and a 55.0% groundball rate in 25 starts, 2 relief appearances, and 134.2 innings pitched between Double-A and Triple-A. Andriese keeps the ball on the ground with a power sinker touching 94 MPH, and he pairs it with two strong secondary pitches in his curveball and splitter. He completes his arsenal with a slider that has its moments. Andriese will head to Triple-A Durham to be another member of the Rays’ starting pitching logjam, but the Rays could opt to move him to the bullpen if the need arises. Andriese’s sinker makes him an obvious candidate to be a reliever that can come in and force a double play, and his secondary pitches could make him a late-inning arm. Andriese will be in the major leagues in 2014 for the Rays, and it will be interesting to see how long they wait before calling him up to their bullpen. Andriese may not quite have Hahn’s stuff, but with better health and experience and a strong repertoire of his own, the Rays would take Andriese over Hahn any day.

Alex Torres and Jesse Hahn may be slightly more valuable than Brad Boxberger and Matt Andriese, but the difference in value is not so extreme at all and the Rays needed only a minor piece or two to even out the deal. Instead, they got a major league role player for next season in Forsythe, a reliever with frustrating inconsistency but the best stuff of anyone in the trade in Lollis, and a solid depth piece in Tissenbaum. It hurt to part with Torres and Hahn, but Andrew Friedman the Rays saw a clear opportunity to upgrade their team for the coming years without losing much of anything for this season. That is the type of deal the Rays will make every time.

Next Rays Game View full schedule »

Tags: Alex Torres Jesse Hahn Logan Forsythe Matt Andriese Matt Lollis Tampa Bay Rays

  • George from Tarpon

    Is this the official end of Sean Rodriguez, a guy who I always loved for his prolific pwer numbers in the minors–granted in small PCL ballparks.? Or does recently acquired Jason Nix look for a new home? I hope so. I hope Sean stays another year. May Logan and Sean battle it out in March, best man winning. But frankly throughtout all these utility-type infielders–I am very thankful that its not a guy like Jamie Carroll we brought on board today. Whew!

    • Robbie_Knopf

      They got Nix on a minor league deal, so if they keep him then great, but otherwise they can cut him while losing nothing.

  • phattitudes

    Forsythe is exactly the type type of pick up the Rays need. With a health brake and a change of scene, he could even be a steal. He put up some big numbers in the minors and had pockets of success at San Diego. We will have to wait and see. This leaves the Rays set for 2014 offensively although pitching wise they may still do more in the bull pen. Offensively they even have room to maneuver. You would have to expect a Lobaton trade, possibly a Rodriguez trade, and potentially a David Price trade. Lobaton is the only must do trade The other 2 are just pieces other teams may want to the point of be wiling to meet the Rays demands. The Cubs just missed on Tanaka and wanted him bad. Could they jump at Price on the rebound. Either way the Rays are in a solid position with room to make more moves if they look too good to pass up. Even with no further changes, can’t wait for 2014. Batter up.

  • Pingback: Great Tampa Bay Rays Links For January 22, 2014 | Tampa Bay Rays Dugout Online | Tampa Bay Rays Blog

  • Pingback: Breaking News: Tampa Bay Rays To Sign Grant Balfour To Two Year Deal - Rays Colored Glasses - A Tampa Bay Rays Fan Site - News, Blogs, Opinion and More

  • prodave

    Nice breakdown, but Torres does have filthy stuff. His challenge has always been keeping his live fastball in the zone. Look at his historical K/9.

    • Robbie_Knopf

      Torres has always stuck out a lot of guys, but the Rays simplified his delivery to help him throw strikes and two side-effects of that were a downtick in velocity from 94-95 to 92-93 and less deception, both of which prevent him from missing as many bats as he did. Then there are his secondary pitches. Torres’ slider was effective at Triple-A, but it didn’t work as well in the majors because he has issues establishing it within the strike zone. His changeup, meanwhile, has good arm speed and movement, but he leaves it up in the zone too much, preventing him from getting more whiffs with it. Put all these factors together and Torres does a good job missing bats but will never be great.