Trade season has begun for the Tampa Bay Rays, and instead of the move that more optimistic fans were looking for–acquiring a bat–the Rays are actually sending a hitter elsewhere. The Rays have traded left fielder/DH David DeJesus to the Los Angeles Angels in exchange for right-hander Eduar Lopez. However, the move may not affect the Rays’ chances as much you would think, and you have to like the reports on Lopez.
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Lately, the Rays have been going with an outfield alignment of David DeJesus, Kevin Kiermaier, and Steven Souza Jr. against right-handed pitching with John Jaso at DH. Without DeJesus, however, they have room to accommodate Desmond Jennings, who is about to start a rehab assignment, or even top prospect Richie Shaffer. As we discussed a while back, Shaffer doesn’t play left field yet, but Jaso’s ability to play left and James Loney‘s struggles could create an opening for Shaffer at first base and DH. Matt Silverman cited at-bats for Jaso and Jennings along with some monetary savings as the reasons for the deal.
Lopez, meanwhile, is a 20-year-old right-hander who is now 2-2 with a 4.32 ERA and a 33-16 strikeout to walk ratio in 8 starts and 33.1 innings at Advanced Rookie Orem this season. However, the numbers aren’t nearly as exciting as his stuff. As noted by Scout.com, Lopez has hit as high as 97 MPH with his fastball and can consistently stay in the 91 to 94 MPH range. The heater may not even be his best pitch, though, as he also throws a high-70’s curveball with dynamic late break that has the makings of a put-away pitch. Lopez also shows promise with a changeup that we know the Rays will develop more.
Lopez isn’t quite a top prospect yet because he is so early in his development and comes with concerns about effort in his delivery and his general feel for pitching. However, evaluators also believe that his motion could be smoothed out over time, something that could also improve his command, and he is the type of pitcher who could ascend quickly up the prospect ranks. Lopez immediately numbers among the arms with the best pure stuff in the Tampa Bay Rays system, and getting a prospect with his upside for a player that the big league club can do without is quite nice.
DeJesus will be missed, and we can’t ignore how critical he was to this team when Jaso was hurt. On the other hand, a trade was always a possibility once everyone got healthy, and it is nice he was able to play well and give himself enough value that the Rays were able get Lopez as he heads elsewhere. Best of luck to DeJesus in his new surroundings, but around Tampa Bay, the Rays believe that they found a nice future piece without sacrificing much from this year’s team.