The Tampa Bay Rays have made their first trade of July, but it came in a much different fashion than we expected. Rather than it being David Price, Ben Zobrist, Matt Joyce, or any other of the Rays big trade candidates, the move was a minor deal, but one with potentially significant implications. The Rays flipped Matt Ramsey, a 24-year old reliever who has spend this year at Double-A, to the Miami Marlins in exchange for an extra $1,000,800 worth of bonus pool money according to Marc Topkin.
Ramsey, a former University of Tennessee standout, had been experiencing a breakout season at Double-A Montgomery. The Rays 19th round draft pick in 2011, Ramsey has put up a 1.07 ERA thus far in 33.2 innings, showing great stuff by striking out 46, but also some control issues by walking 23. Ramsey features a good fastball that consistently sits in the low-90’s but can be dialed up to 95-96 MPH on occasion. He also throws a power curveball that can be devastating at times. However, his command and control can get iffy at times. Ramsey could be a good reliever in the big leagues before too long. That said, the Rays have plenty of future relief depth, and thus don’t need Ramsey. He is already 24-years old, and given that great depth he might not have been able to see time with the Rays until he was 27 or 28 years old. The Rays are losing a good reliever, but it is a hit they can afford.
By acquiring the three international slots, the Rays’ bonus pool sits at $2,998,000. Adding this money is significant in many ways. The Rays have already signed Dominican shortstop Adrian Rondon for $2.95 million, and they also added outfielder Jesus Sanchez for $400k. The Rays have to pay a 100% tax on any money they go over their bonus pool, so in essence acquiring this money saves the Rays $1,000,800. However, this could potentially have bigger implications. The max penalty in international signings is for going 15% over your pool, with the penalty being a 100% tax on the overage as well as the inability to sign players for more than $300k over the next two international signing periods. For the Rays to go 15% over, they would have to spend $3,448,735, but with Rondon and Sanchez combined they have only spent $3,350,000. Of course, the Rays have signed numerous other international prospects, but none have bonuses this large, and there is a chance that the Rays will be able to stay below the 15% threshold. This means that the Rays’ penalty will be an inability to sign players for over 300k for just 2015 rather than 2015 and 2016. It is impossible to tell at this point whether the Rays have, or will, spend 15% over their bonus pool. However, I don’t think they make this trade unless it puts them under the 15% mark. We do know that the Rays have saved over $1 million, not an insignificant mark by any means, and we will have to wait and see if this trade got them even bigger savings than that.
This trade may seem minor, but it could have potentially big implications for the Rays 2016 international draft class. The Rays are giving up Matt Ramsey, a talented reliever. At the minimum they are saving some money, but possibly they are avoiding the penalty for going 15% over their bonus pool. We will have to wait and see how this trade ends up working out, but for now it seems like a good deal for the Rays.