Juan Carlos Oviedo has been a decent pick-up for the Tampa Bay Rays this season. The Rays re-signed him to a 1-year $1.5 million deal this offseason after he spent the whole 2013 season within the organization rehabbing from Tommy John, and he has responded with a decent 3.69 ERA. Oviedo is a free agent after this year, and thus the Rays can either trade him before the deadline or play out the season with him on the roster. Oviedo may not bring a huge return in a deal, but contenders are always looking for relief help, and Oviedo should bring something of value. But it isn’t for the return that the Rays should trade Oviedo- it is because their bullpen is better off without him.
The reason that the Rays are better without Oviedo is that their bullpen could use another lefty. Cesar Ramos, Jake McGee, and Erik Bedard, the team’s current lefties, do not really fill the role of left-handed specialist. Ramos is the swingman of the Rays bullpen, while McGee is a late-innings guy who can get both righties and lefties out. Bedard, meanwhile, is only being held onto for starting depth and could be released soon, and he too profiles as a long reliever. If the Rays have to get a key left-handed out, they often rely on McGee to get one or two outs when they should be relying on him to shut down an entire 8th or 9th inning. If the Rays had another left-hander in the bullpen, they could ensure McGee would not have to be used in a lefty-specialist role. Oviedo, meanwhile, has pitched just 4 times in the month of July. His role in the bullpen is redundant given the Rays 5 righties, and thus the Rays would be better off giving his spot to a left-hander.
The Rays have a trio of left-handers putting up gaudy numbers in Triple-A, and all three would fit in well with the Rays bullpen. First there is Jeff Beliveau, he of the 1.05 ERA and 49-14 K-BB ratio in 35.0 innings. Beliveau might not be the sexiest relief prospect, but he has nothing left to prove at Triple-A and would do fine in the big league bullpen. He has held lefties to a .192 average in the minors since 2011. C.J. Riefenhauser, who has put up a 1.75 ERA and a 30-17 K-BB ratio in 36.0 innings this year. Riefenhauser has more upside than Beliveau, and could be a setup man in the big leagues one day. He has held lefties to just a .140/.203/.213 line in since 2011, and the Rays could use a lefty-specialist role this season to ease him into a more important role in the future. Adam Liberatore has also been solid, posting a 2.27 ERA and a 56-9 K-BB ratio in 43.2 innings at Triple-A this season. However, his stuff doesn’t translate as well to the big leagues and he would likely be passed up in favor of Beliveau or Riefenhauser. All-in-all, the Rays have three guys who could be a capable third lefty in the bullpen, and in fact Beliveau or Riefenhauser might be even better than Oviedo has been this season.
The Rays need to trade Juan Carlos Oviedo, and not necessarily just because he is a free agent after this season. The Rays have relievers at Triple-A that could be even better than Oviedo has been, and these lefties all fit in better with the Rays bullpen. Oviedo has been a nice find by the Rays, but it is time for his tenure to come to an end.