Rays Winter Leagues Recap: Shades of the Matt Garza Trade
By Robbie Knopf
Tampa Bay Rays fans, when I say Brendan Harris and Jason Pridie, what comes to mind? The title of this article should give you a hint: the first Matt Garza trade. Harris and Pridie were traded by the Rays along with Delmon Young in exchange for Garza, Jason Bartlett, and Eddie Morlan. That worked out pretty well for the Rays. Interestingly enough, though, Harris and Pridie have both seen big league time in the last two years and are currently playing in Winter Ball.
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Dominican Winter League: Aguilas Cibaenas 3, Leones de Escogido 2
If we’re going to extend the theme to player that the Rays traded, we can add two more to the list. Matt Ramsey and Derek Dietrich–both, interestingly enough, dealt to the Miami Marlins–appeared for Cibaenas in this game with mixed results. Dietrich went 0 for 3, but he did drill a sac fly in the ninth inning to give Cibaenas a 3-1 lead. It worked out well for the Aguilas that he did as Ramsey allowed a run on 2 hits in the bottom of the frame. In his defense, he did strike out 2 on his way to his 6th save of the season.
We also have two players from this game who were Rays for about 12 minutes. Manny Ramirez went 0 for 4 for the Aguilas while Guzman pinch-ran for Escogido and stole a base. Guzman was on third base when Ramsey forced Ronny Paulino to ground out to end the game.
Finally, we have two players who didn’t actually play for the Rays ever but we discuss anyway. To continue the ninth inning narrative, it was Jordan Pacheco who drilled an RBI single off Ramsey in the 9th to finish a 1 for 4 on a positive note. Danny Richar also appeared in the game for the Aguilas on defense.
Mexican Pacific League: Aguilas de Mexicali 6, Charros de Jalisco 2
Brendan Harris had a strong game for the Charros in this game, going 2 for 2 with 2 walks. He is now hitting .385 in four games with the team, reaching base at least once in each one.
Obviously the Matt Garza-Delmon Young trade was a brilliant move by Andrew Friedman, but an underrated fact is that acquiring Harris in the first place was another one of Friedman’s astute moves. Harris split 2006 between the Washington Nationals and Cincinnati Reds, not impressing in his big league time but posting a .300/.381/.463 line in 422 Triple-A plate appearances. He was a former top prospect in his mid-20’s with versatility and excellent minor league numbers who had never received an extended big league chance. Friedman acquired him for cash–that’s it!–in January of 2007.
Of course, Harris proceeded to deliver a breakout season in a D-Rays uniform in 2007, hitting to a .286/.343/.434 line with 35 doubles, 12 homers, and 59 RBI, and the rest is history. Friedman got lucky that Harris came together exactly when he did, but getting him for nothing was a smart move and it ended up paying major dividends.
I swear that I didn’t see this until I was already planning a Garza trade-themed piece: there was actually a player named Garza in this game! Adrian Garza tossed a perfect relief inning for Mexicali, striking out 1. The only thing Adrian has in common with Matt is his last name and the fact that he’s a right-handed pitcher, but his presence is quite an amusing coincidence nonetheless.
Finally, a player I have been meaning to mention for a while is Humberto Cota. Cota, 35, went 1 for 4 with an RBI and a run scored in the win for the Aguilas. Cota was a D-Rays prospect from 1997 to 1999 who was also traded. The Rays dealt him and Joe Oliver to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Jose Guillen and Jeff Sparks. Cota made the big leagues for Pittsburgh and saw time for them in seven seasons, although he could never find a regular role.
Venezuelan Winter League: Leones del Caracas 3, Bravos de Margarita 2
Taylor Motter is officially playing for all 30 major league teams (or at least those with a 40-man roster spot open), and trying to open some eyes. This game saw him go 1 for 4 with a triple and a run scored for the Bravos as he extended his hitting streak to 4. Motter has a .297/.350/.622 line in his last 10 games overall. Matt Nevarez also got in for Margarita, working around a walk with 2 strikeouts in a scoreless 9th.
On the Caracas side, Henry Rodriguez went 1 for 3 with a walk. He now has a five-game hitting streak and has kept up a .303/.368/.402 line through 136 plate appearances. Rodriguez was nowhere in 2014 after appearing in the majors for the Cincinnati Reds as recently as 2013, and he has to be looking to get back into affiliated ball for 2015.
Aguilas del Zulia 3, Cardenales de Lara 2
Let’s just say that Romulo Sanchez is pitching a lot better for the Cardenales than he did for the Durham Bulls in 2012 (6.31 ERA). In this game, he went 6 innings allowing 2 runs on 6 hits, striking out 4 while walking none. He also forced a 7-3 groundout to flyout ratio. Sanchez now has a 2.81 ERA in 16 innings for Lara, increasing his innings pitched from 4 to 5 to 6 in his last three appearances.
And now, to wrap up the Matt Garza trade storyline, Jason Pridie went 1 for 4 in the win for Zulia. He is now 2 for 8 to begin his Aguilas tenure. Pridie actually has an impressive streak going. Since making 236 plate appearances for the New York Mets in 2011, Pridie has made between 4 and 10 big league plate appearances the last three years for three different teams. He should literally be the picture for “Quad-A player” in the dictionary at this point.