The Tampa Bay Rays’ recent hot streak has apparently ended after losses in four of their last five games. They hope that they can rebound beginning tonight, but nothing is certain and the season may just be slipping away. If that is the case, however, it gives the Rays an advantage they are not used to having: increased priority in waiver claims. The Rays claimed right-hander Angel Sanchez off waivers from the Miami Marlins, and while they eventually cut him in favor of Cory Burns, it was a major luxury for them to get a player with a chance at helping their team without giving anything up. Now the Rays will hope to pull off a similar trick with another former Marlins farmhand. Miami has designated former top prospect Jacob Turner for assignment, and the Rays could be among the teams interested in acquiring him.
Turner, 23, has suffered through a horrific season for the Marlins, managing just a 5.97 ERA in 12 starts, 8 relief appearances, and 78.1 innings pitched. However, that doesn’t tell the full story. Turner actually has a 6.2 K/9, a 2.6 BB/9, and a 0.8 HR/9, amounting to a 4.01 FIP. Misfortune has certainly been a factor for him as he isn’t nearly as bad as his ERA would appear to indicate. In addition, Turner still has very good stuff, throwing a mid-90’s fastball, an excellent slider, and a pair of fringy offerings in his curveball and changeup. Turner certainly has his flaws, specifically too many misses up in the zone with his fastball and a lack of a put-away pitch against left-handed batters, but he still has the ability to be an effective major league starting pitcher. After a while, though, the Marlins ran out of time. They are on the fringes of contention at 5.5 games back of the second NL Wild Card spot and 6.5 games back in the NL East, and they couldn’t afford to have a pitcher that couldn’t help them on their roster. Turner is out of options, so the Marlins had no choice but to designate him for assignment. They don’t intend to lose him for nothing–we should see a trade–but they have also forced their hand and lost leverage in a potential deal. Would it make sense for the Rays to make a play for him?
The Rays, like the Marlins, are also trying to contend, but that Turner could still have a place on their 25-man roster. The Rays managed to keep Erik Bedard for a month without him appearing in a game–why couldn’t they do the same with Turner? Their likely move would be to designate Cesar Ramos for assignment and make Turner their long reliever for the rest of the season. Ramos has been a solid pitcher, but Turner gives them an arm with much more upside who should at least be passable the rest of the season in low-leverage situations. Knowing that, the Rays could offer a decent prospect with some upside for Turner, possibly someone like Granden Goetzman or Parker Markel. Goetzman has five-tool potential but severe issues with plate discipline while Markel has been enigmatic but still could have a future in the bullpen. Either (possibly along with another lesser-touted player) would be a worthwhile cost to pay in exchange for a pitcher with ability with a chance to help the Rays in short order.
It remains to be seen how interested the teams with worse records than the Rays will be in Jacob Turner, but the Rays have the ability to give the Marlins a competitive offer and are high enough in waiver priority (11th) that an acquisition is a realistic possibility. The next ten days should be interesting as we find out where Turner will end up.