Breaking News: Rays Acquire Ryan Hanigan And Heath Bell


Initial Post (See Below for updates)

Ken Rosenthal has just tweeted that the Tampa Bay Rays have reached an agreement to acquire catcher Ryan Hanigan from the Cincinnati Reds. Rosenthal also hears that this might be a three team deal, but there is no more information available about who that third team might be at this time. There is also no current news on what other players are involved in the deal. We will update this post as more information is received about this trade.

This is a very exciting moment for the Rays. Hanigan likely becomes the best backstop to wear a Rays uniform, other than maybe Dioner Navarro‘s 2008 season. Obviously the Rays now have a logjam at catcher, and the odd man out is likely Jose Lobaton after Jose Molina recently signed a two-year $4.5 million deal. The Rays could elect to deal Lobaton or bring him into spring training as depth, but barring injury Lobaton likely does not have a roster spot with the Rays in 2014.

Hanigan has a reputation as a solid all around catcher, and is one of the best defensive catchers in the league. In 2012 and 2013, Hanigan has led the league in caught stealing percentage at 48% and 45% respectively. This is a major boost for the Rays, who were one of the worst teams in terms of throwing out basestealers in 2013. Acquiring Hanigan gives the Rays a major upgrade defensively at catcher, despite Jose Molina‘s deadly pitch framing–though Hanigan is regarded as a very good framer in his own right. But not only is Hanigan valuable with the glove, but also he is a force with the bat.

Hanigan did have a very poor season at the plate in 2013. However, this was likely due to injury and bad luck. Hanigan’s poor .198/.306/.261 line was heavily influenced by a very unlucky .216 BABIP, which is sure to be closer to his .283 career mark in 2014. Hanigan also spent some time on the DL with a wrist injury last season, which is notorious for causing hitters to struggle. In 2014, it is more likely that Hanigan will hit closer to his career .262/.359/.343 line. Hanigan’s plate approach will also mesh well with the Rays lineup, which is known for its few strikeouts and many walks. For his career, Hanigan has a walk rate of 12% and a strikeout rate of 10.1%, which the Rays will love. His offense will be a significant upgrade over that of Molina and even Lobaton.

With one year of team control left, the Rays could elect to extend Hanigan. MLB trade rumors projects Hanigan to make $2.3 million through arbitration this offseason, so he certainly fits the Rays budget. An extension at three years for $12 million with a team option for $6 million could be fair for both parties, although there is a possibility this could be simply a one year move if Hanigan wishes to test the free agent market. However things play out, Rays’ fans can rest assured that they will enter 2014 with the best catcher situation they have ever had.

The Rays are showing their fans that they are willing to make moves to win now by this trade. We will have to wait to see what the Rays gave up to acquire Hanigan before completely judging this deal, but for now it looks to be very exciting for the Rays. Ryan Hanigan is probably the best catcher that has ever been on the Rays’ roster, and there is a possibility he could be around for multiple years. He is a solid all around catcher, a sharp contrast from the one-faceted catchers that the Rays have had in the past, and it will be exciting to see him in action.

Update (2:17 pm): John Fay tweets the Diamondbacks are the third team in the deal.

Update (2:35 pm): Hanigan has indeed been extended at 3-years and $11 million tweets Buster Olney. It is also rumored that Heath Bell is involved in the trade, although this is not confirmed.

Update (2:46 pm): Bob Nightengale tweets the deal is for 3-years at $10.75 million with a team option for a fourth year that could bring the total to $13.7 million

Update (2:51 pm): Heath Bell is headed to the Rays, tweets Jack Magruder.

Update (2:57 pm): David Holmberg will go to the Reds tweets Ken Rosenthal. The Rays will send minor league RHRP Justin Choate to the Diamondbacks tweets Steve Gilbert. Choate made 16 relief appearances for Short Season-A Hudson Valley in 2013, pitching to a 2.88 ERA in his first season in the minors. He shows decent command of his high-80’s fastball that touches 90 MPH, but his secondary pitches leave something to be desired.

Update (3:12 PM): 

Bell established himself as a dominant closer with the San Diego Padres from 2009-2011, saving 132 games over this time. Bell then landed a 3-year $27 million contract with the Marlins prior to 2012, but was disappointing in his one year there, pitching to a 5.09 ERA in and saving just 19 games. Bell was sent to the Diamondbacks following the season, where he posted a 4.11 ERA and saved 15 games. Bell is another relief reclamation project for the Rays, but he still has the potential to be a good late-innings reliever. The Rays will be on the hook for just $5 million of his $9 million salary, as the Marlins already agreed to pay $3.5 million of his 2014 salary as part of their trade agreement with the Diamondbacks and Arizona will pay $500,000 more. While this move does not come without risk for the Rays, Bell does have potential to be a good reliever. The Rays are known for getting the best out of guys in his position. Taking Bell from the D-backs also allowed the Rays to give up less to acquire Hanigan, so this can be considered a plus as well. Overall, having Bell could work out well, but even if he falters, acquring him allowed the Rays to hold on to their top prospects yet still acquire Ryan Hanigan.

Other news: Marc Topkin tweets that Jose Lobaton could be heading to the White Sox and about the specifics of Hanigan’s deal. He’ll make $2.75 million in 2014, $3.5 million in 2015, $3.7 million in 2016, and either $3.75 million or an $800,000 buyout in 2017.

Update (3:32 PM): And we have apparently as close to a final deal as we’re going to get.

The player to be named could wind up being a decent prospect, but overall the Rays got a strong catcher and a bullpen arm with upside of a player who hasn’t yet pitched in full season ball and a prospect who might be solid. Congratulations are in order for Andrew Friedman and the Rays.