There were twenty-seven players involved in the Tampa Bay Rays’ seven offseason deals. The Rays gave up twelve and received fifteen in return. You always hope that your team will get the better end of a deal, but you will settle for both teams getting what they need. It’s one third of the way through the season and time to take a capsule look at how the deals have worked out to date.
The Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar trade: The Rays sent Zobrist and Escobar to the Oakland A’s for John Jaso along with prospects Daniel Robertson and Boog Powell. Billy Beane was sure the A’s were going to make a run at the AL West title and that Zobrist would shore up his weak middle infield, Unfortunately for the A’s, it hasn’t turned out that way. They are in last place, and Zobrist’s five weeks missed with injuries certainly contributed to that. Escobar, meanwhile, was quickly was flipped to the Nationals for pitcher Tyler Clippard.
On the Rays side, Jaso gave the team one at-bat before he went on the DL with a wrist injury. Fortunately, Robertson and Powell have performed as advertised and more. Robertson is the #2 prospect in the organization and looks to be the shortstop of the future. Powell is the #16 prospect and could be the team’s long sought-after leadoff man as he is hitting .324 with a .408 OBP at Double-A. Both could make the Rays as early as 2016. Based on their play and future with the team, it looks like so far the Rays got the better of the deal.
The Wil Myers trade: This trade with San Diego and Washington had over eight moving parts but it essentially came down to a Wil Myers for Steven Souza Jr. trade. Andrew Friedman loved Myers, but Matt Silverman did not and moved him a year and half after the James Shields/Wade Davis for Myers/Jake Odorizzi deal.
The next part of the trade involved two catchers with Ryan Hanigan going to the Padres for Rene Rivera. Hanigan was with Padres for about a day until they moved him to Boston. He is currently, as usual, on the DL. The last part involved an exchange of four minor leaguers with Burch Smith and Jake Bauers going to the Rays for Jose Castillo and Gerardo Reyes.
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I also like the Rays on this one. Souza’s strikeouts will drive you nuts but his pure raw power is a thing of beauty. I can easily see him as a right-hand hitting Carlos Pena. Rivera is great behind the plate and if he stays healthy and gets his average above the Mendoza line, he will be an upgrade from Hanigan and Molina. Bauers is the #21 prospect and is hitting well with power at Charlotte. Burch Smith had a nice spring training before he needed Tommy John surgery. If he comes back, he projects as back-of-the-rotation starter or a setup man.
The Matt Joyce trade: The Rays couldn’t stand watch pay Joyce underperform for another year and shipped him to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for setup man Kevin Jepsen. Joyce has struggled even more with the Angels and is hitting below the Mendoza line. Meanwhile, Jepsen has become an important part of an improved Rays bullpen. This has been a clear winner for the Rays.
The Joel Peralta trade: The Rays sent Joel Peralta and Adam Liberatore to the Los Angeles Dodgers for relief pitcher Jose Dominguez and minor league pitcher Greg Harris. The Rays thought “Everyday Joel” was out of gas and they were probably right as he’s now on the DL. Liberatore has done a nice job for the Dodgers as the second lefty behind J.P. Howell.
Meanwhile, the Rays had hoped for big things out of Dominguez but control problems and injuries have slowed him down. Harris is pitching well at Low-A, but is far away from the majors. I’ll give a slight edge to the Dodgers on this one, but that may change.
The Jeremy Hellickson trade: Injuries had taken the luster off Jeremy Hellickson’s 2011 Rookie of the Year season, and with a salary of over $4.0 million, he was expendable. They sent him to Arizona for minor leaguers infielder Andrew Velazquez (#18 prospect) and outfielder Justin Williams. Both are doing OK but not great at A-ball. On the other side, Hellickson has not shown much for the Diamondbacks. The Rays accomplished just what they wanted, but only time will tell whether it is a clear win for the Rays.
The Sean Rodriguez and Cesar Ramos trades: The Sean Rodriguez and Caesar Ramos moves were salary dumps. Rodriguez is doing decently coming off the bench for Pittsburgh and Ramos is solid working out of the bullpen for the Angels. The Rays received a pair of minor league right-handers, Buddy Borden from Pittsburgh and Mark Sappington from Anaheim. Borden has pitched well and Sappington not so well. It will be quite a while before we can determine if anyone came out on top with these two trades.
In the end, these were typical Tampa Bay Rays trades. The Rays move a group of players who are making too much money, soon to be eligible for free agency, and/or have issues with their game or personality for series of young players or prospects who will be inexpensive, under team control, and contributors in the present or future. Souza, Robertson, Powell, Bauers, Velazquez, Williams, and Smith are all just such players. Factor in that of the regulars the Rays traded away, only Escobar has stayed healthy and delivered a quality year, and the Rays seem to be the winners in their offseason deals thus far.