The Tampa Bay Rays’ lefty reliever struggles this season have reached an incredible extent. First Jake McGee went down following (relatively) minor elbow surgery, then the Rays lost Jeff Beliveau and C.J. Riefenhauser early in the season to shoulder injuries. Beliveau even required surgery that will sideline him for over a year. The Rays needed some other lefty option, and while they had one guy at Triple-A in Jordan Norberto, he is coming off Tommy John Surgery and it is unclear what he can give them. With that in mind, the Rays deemed it necessary to make a move.
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The Rays announced that they have acquired left-hander Xavier Cedeno from Andrew Friedman’s Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for cash considerations. Their corresponding move to add him to their 40-man roster is exceedingly bizarre–they transferred John Jaso to the 60-day DL with an injury they described as “wrist contusion.” Look it up in the dictionary (if you didn’t know it before), and contusion means bruise. Previously it was called a jammed wrist, which sounds slightly more severe, but either way, how is that a 60-day DL injury? In any event, we’ll table that discussion for now and talk about Cedeno.
Cedeno, 28, is a lefty reliever with 77 big league appearances to his credit. In vintage specialist fashion, he threw just 55 innings total in those games. Cedeno was at his best with the Houston Astros in 2012 as he pitched to a 3.77 ERA and a 36-14 strikeout to walk ratio in 31 innings. He made 25 appearances between the Astros and Washington Nationals the last two years and then five with Washington this season before he was designated for assignment. The Dodgers later claimed him and DFA’d him themselves to facilitate his acquisition by the Rays.
Cedeno throws three fastballs, all of which range from the high-80’s to low 90’s: a four-seamer, a two-seamer, and a cutter. He throws nearly all sinkers to left-handed batters while mixing all three offerings against righties, with whom he unsurprisingly has trouble. Cedeno can be effective against lefties between his deception and his tight high-70’s curveball, but his deception is negated against opposite-side hitters.
Overall, Cedeno has generated good results against lefties in his career, allowing a .252/.331/.352 line and a 39-9 strikeout to walk ratio that prompts more optimism. He trimmed that to .213/.304/.311 in 2012. Right-handed batters have a .942 OPS against Cedeno and it is hard to believe that he will be able to succeed against them moving forward. Beliveau could get some righty batters out and Riefenhauser had the ability to do the same. We cannot say the same about Xavier Cedeno.
On the whole, Cedeno gives the Tampa Bay Rays a left-handed reliever as at least a fill-in option until a guy like Norberto proves himself ready. The Rays had no lefty specialist on their roster, and now they finally have one. That is but a small victory given Cedeno’s flaws, but we can’t complain too much about a pitcher that the team acquired for nothing except for cash. If he is ineffective, they’ll move onto the next guy.