Apparently somebody saw Cesar Ramos‘ value. The lefty had been a decent enough long reliever for the Tampa Bay Rays the last four years, but he was perpetually the last man on the roster. It was only going to be a matter of time until the Rays designated him for assignment and moved on. Indeed, the team has finally parted ways with Ramos. What no one expected, though, is that they would receive a piece of value in return.
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The Los Angeles Angels announced that they have acquired Ramos from the Rays in exchange for right-hander Mark Sappington. Ramos has the ability to fill multiple roles for the Angels, whether as a long reliever, a low-leverage matchup guy against lefty batters, or even an emergency starting pitcher. This year for the Rays, Ramos made seven starts and was respectable, posting a 5.04 ERA but pitching well in four of his seven outings. After the Angels saw their starting depth collapse at the end of the season, the opportunity to acquire a guy like Ramos who could slide into their rotation if necessary must have been attractive.
The fact that Cesar Ramos was starting games for the Rays this season lets you know how bad their season went. If those games had anything to do with the Rays getting Sappington for Ramos, though, those starts may make a difference for them in the long-term.
Sappington, who will turn 24 on November 17th, is coming off a disastrous season that started in a Double-A rotation and finished in a High-A bullpen. Overall, he managed just a 6.02 ERA and a 114-79 strikeout to walk ratio in 113.2 innings pitched. But what those numbers don’t tell you are how good Sappington’s stuff is and how well he did after moving to relief.
Sappington was ranked as the Angels’ #5 prospect after the 2013 season, with Baseball America praising him for a fastball touching 97 MPH and a promising changeup. We know how much the Rays love changeups, and the Rays’ pitching coordinators will hope to help him refine it further. Double-A hitters took advantage of his biggest issue, his command, but that became less of an issue once he started pitching in shorter stints. In 32 relief innings, Sappington managed a 3.38 ERA, and his 13.8 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 should inspire plenty of optimism.
Mark Sappington will return to Double-A to start 2015, but given his fastball, his changeup, and even a slider that looked better in relief, the Rays may not be able to keep him for long. Matt Silverman has to be pleased with acquiring Sapppington in his first trade as Rays president of baseball operations. There is always the chance that Sappington’s command issues will be too much for him to overcome, but there is also a real possibility that the Rays traded a replaceable low-leverage reliever for a key piece of future bullpens.