The Tampa Bay Rays had a momentous 2013 offseason. They had several impending free agents, and they were able to retain one major one, James Loney. They did not trade David Price, they signed David DeJesus to an extension, and they also brought back Grant Balfour as a free agent. Then there were the trades. The Rays acquired players Ryan Hanigan, Heath Bell, Nate Karns, and Logan Forsythe in a trio of deals, giving up prospects and even a couple of major league players in the process. Then in addition to those players they traded away, they lost several to free agency. The Rays are excited about their 25-man roster for this season, but there are 19 major league players and prospects who they have lost in the past year. Let’s go through those 2013 Rays and see how they are doing to begin 2014.
The Alex Torres/Logan Forsythe Trade
Alex Torres has a pretty 1.29 ERA in his first 9 appearances and 7 innings pitched with the San Diego Padres, but he has also seen the wildness that plagued him prior to 2013 come back in earnest. Torres has 6 walks compared to 5 strikeouts and has needed the help of other relievers to get out of some jams. Hopefully for Torres’ sake, he can rebound, but his control issues emphasize that the Rays certainly were not dealing a sure thing in this trade.
Jesse Hahn is the highest-profile prospect the Rays have traded in a long time, and sure enough, he has a 0.00 ERA in his first 7.2 innings in the Padres system, allowing just 4 hits. But there are also quite a few to qualify those numbers. Hahn has pitched all three of his games out of the bullpen, and while he has struck out 8 batters, he has also walked 4. Hahn moving to the bullpen is more likely the Padres limiting his innings than an actual permanent conversion, but Hahn does have serious factors going against him despite his great stuff. San Diego still feels the need to baby him even though he underwent Tommy John Surgery way back in 2010, and he is also a pitcher who will turn 25 in July yet is only pitching his first Double-A games now. Aside from the injuries, his performance is also a concern, as the 4 walks remind us. Hahn could come back to bite the Rays, but the odds are against it.
The Nate Karns Trade
An injury to Wilson Ramos has pressed Jose Lobaton into the Washington Nationals’ starting catcher job, and he has been able to perform decently enough in his absence. Lobaton has a .238/.333/.310 line (79 OPS+) with 11 strikeouts versus 6 walks, and he has also thrown out 38% of baserunners attempting to steal against him. Lobaton has not shown much of the solid power he demonstrated in 2013, but hopefully that is on the way. The Rays won’t miss Lobaton thanks to the acquisition of Ryan Hanigan, and that is a great excuse for Rays fans to root for him.
The good news for Drew Vettleson: 1) he is a 22 year old at Double-A who is 2.6 younger than the league average and 2) he has 2 homers in 25 appearances after 4 in 516 plate appearances in 2013. Unfortunately, he is also hitting just .130, striking out 6 times without walking. Vettleson could be a solid fourth outfielder, but the Rays will not worry much about losing him.
Another player 2.6 years younger than the Double-A Eastern League average, Felipe Rivero is also off to an interesting start. He is 0-3 with a 4.15 ERA, allowing 16 hits in 13 innings of work, but he also has a strong 10-2 strikeout to walk ratio. Rivero could really be the key to the Karns trade for Washington, but he has to improve his command and changeup to remain a starter.
The Ryan Hanigan/Heath Bell Trade
Todd Glaesmann retired suddenly after being acquired by the Arizona Diamondbacks. Even before that, plate discipline issues put his career in question. We’ll have to see if this is the end of the story, but giving him up was a small price to pay for Hanigan.
The only player the D-Backs received that is still playing, Justin Choate hasn’t pitched yet in 2014. Oh wait…apparently he’s on the voluntary retired list too. What in the world is going on with this trade?
So far, so good for Fernando Rodney as Seattle Mariners closer. In 6 appearances, he has a 1.69 ERA and a 9-3 strikeout to walk ratio in 5.1 innings pitched (although he has allowed 2 unearned runs). Rodney probably is not flashing back to 2012, but 9 strikeouts in 5.1 innings amounts to a 15.2 K/9. Best of luck to Rodney in Seattle.
Kelly Johnson is the enemy for Rays fans now as a member of the New York Yankees, and he is playing the role pretty role, managing a .226/.293/.491 line (116 OPS+) with 3 home runs and 8 RBI in 58 plate appearances. Absolutely insane that Johnson has started 11 games for the Yankees at first base this year, but he should be a solid role player for New York this season. Johnson wasn’t a huge loss, but the Rays do miss having a lefty bat off the bench.
Jamey Wright morphed from a groundball specialist to a guy who could strike a few batters out last year with the Rays, and that reputation has persisted for him for the Los Angeles Dodgers. In his first 10 innings, Wright has a 3.38 ERA and 10 strikeouts, although he has also walked 7. With any luck, Wright will have an up-and-down season and be back with the Rays on a minor league deal next spring training…although with the Rays’ bullpen depth, might as well just root for him to succeed.
Delmon Young made the Baltimore Orioles’ roster out of spring training and has done really well so far, managing a .333/.371/.485 line (137 OPS+) in 35 plate appearances. On the flip side, he has struck out 9 times while walking just twice. We’ll have to see this season goes for Young, but he may have found his niche as a part-time power bat off the bench.
It was a surprise when the Tampa Bay Rays non-tendered Wesley Wright, and it didn’t take too long for the Chicago Cubs to sign up. So far in 2014, he has a 3.18 ERA in 6 appearances and 5.2 IP, although his 11.1 hits per 9 innings and 1.6 HR/9 are not exactly ideal. Wright is a serviceable lefty, but the Rays have a couple of pitchers as good if not better in ex-Cub Jeff Beliveau and C.J. Riefenhauser.
Mark Lowe wasn’t actually a member of the 2013 Rays, but we’ll include him here after he was released by the Rays and signed with the Cleveland Indians. If you were looking for validation about the Rays cutting Lowe, look no further than the fact that he is with their Triple-A Columbus affiliate after he failed to find a big league gig. Lowe has a 6.75 ERA in 7 appearances for the Clippers, although his 9-3 strikeout to walk ratio provides hope that he will be just fine.
The Waiver Wire Giveth, The Waiver Wire Taketh Away
Sam Fuld signed with the Oakland Athletics as a free agent, and he actually made the A’s out of spring training and performed solidly replacing the injured Craig Gentry. In 33 plate appearances, Fuld had a .200/.273/.433 line with 2 triples, a homer, and 4 RBI to go along with some great catchers in the outfield. Then Gentry returned and Fuld was designated for assignment, ending up with the Rays’ opponents beginning tonight, the Minnesota Twins. It will be great to see Fuld, and every Rays fans will be rooting for him to find a stable job in the major leagues.
The Rays tried to sneak Chris Gimenez through waivers, but the attempt failed as he was claimed by the A’s. Then Oakland designated him for assignment and he was claimed by the Rangers. Then the Rangers designated him themselves, and he declined their outright assignment after he passed through waivers. But after it looked like he might return to the Rays, he evidently decided that the Rangers offered a better opportunity and re-signed with them. Gimenez has a .242/.342/.242 line with a 7-5 strikeout to walk ratio in 38 plate appearances for Texas’ Triple-A Round Rock affiliate.
Yeah, Korea Is Pretty Good
Despite pretty decent stats with the Rays last year (106 OPS+), Luke Scott ended up with the SK Wyverns in Korea and is having a lot of fun right now. In 63 plate appearances, Scott has a .314/.429/.608 line with 3 doubles, 4 homers, 7 RBI, and a 7-8 strikeout to walk ratio. If Scott can keep that up, we could see him back in the major leagues at some point.
He was only with the Rays for one day after a marvelous season with the Durham Bulls, but it is worth mentioning J.D. Martin. Martin won his first start for the Samsung Lions, going 7 innings allowing just 1 run on 3 hits, striking out 5 while walking none. Nothing but the best to Martin as he continues his quest to regain a spot in the major leagues after injuries cost him his rotation spot with the Washington Nationals.
Oh Right, He Was On The Rays Last Year
The biggest surprise of this list has to be Kyle Farnsworth. Farnsworth did make 9 appearances with a 1.04 ERA with the Pittsburgh Pirates after the Rays let him go, but he settled for a minor league deal with the New York Mets and then couldn’t even hit 90 MPH in spring training. But injuries got him to the roster and Farnsworth has not looked back, seizing the Mets’ closer job. In 10 appearances, Farnsworth has a 0.96 ERA, striking out 6 while walking 2 in 9.1 innings pitched. The odds are long, but best of luck to Farnsworth as he hopes to repeat his improbable 2011 with the Rays.
Injuries also brought Ryan Roberts onto a major league roster, that of the Boston Red Sox in this case, but he went just 2 for 19 before getting designated for assignment. He passed through waivers and remaining in the organization. Roberts had a decent 7-3 strikeout to walk ratio, and he really does deserve another chance–he can really hit left-handed pitching. But for now, he will head to Triple-A again and hope to hit his way to another chance.
Jason Bourgeois signed with the Cincinnati Reds as a minor league free agent and will hope to earn a stint in the major leagues the same way he did last season. In 72 appearances (how in the for the Reds’ Triple-A Louisville affiliate, Bourgeois has a .273/.324/.379 line with 3 doubles, a homer, 6 RBI, 4 stolen bases, and 5 walks against 4 strikeouts. Bourgeois is in annoying spot as a fringe-major leaguer, and hopefully he gets another break.
The 2013 Rays were a nice team, and several of these players deserve thanks for their contribution to that effort. For the prospects, meanwhile, it will be fascinating to see what happens with them and see whether those trades work out as expected. There is no one on this list that the Rays are going to really regret losing, but it is nice to see several players going well and the probability is that at least one of these players will be back in Tampa Bay at some point.