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Tampa Bay Rays: The Year Old Blockbuster Deal Review

By Mat Germain
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On December 18th, 2014, the Rays were able to obtain Steven Souza Jr and Travis Ott from the Nationals, and Jake Bauers, Burch Smith, and Rene Rivera from the Padres. The cost? Wil Myers, Ryan Hanigan, Jose Castillo and Gerardo Reyes.

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It’s hard to imagine that anyone in their right mind though the Rays had the better end of the 3-way

blockbuster agreed to just under a year ago

. At the time, I was wondering what the Rays were thinking, as Myers was still thought of as a tremendous talent with middle-of-the-order potential.

Trea Turner

seemed to be the perfect fit in San Diego, and it didn’t make sense for them to add yet another outfielder after adding

Matt Kemp

from Los Angeles, but such was the case.

I can point you all to numerous articles that belittled the Rays after they completed this deal. They jumped off the cliff, sort of speak, and decided the Rays were selling out and rebuilding. That was not the case, as pointed out by our very own Robbie Knopf. They had a plan to build up their assets and saw an opportunity to increase the amount of talent they had in-house. When you’re on a limited budget, you grab that opportunity whenever it presents itself.

I’m going to break this deal down after showing you where each piece stands, notes included below each portion. It will display just how bright the future looks for the Rays, and how bleak it looks for the Padres.

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I included Middlebrooks in the Padres portion since they flipped Hanigan to the Red Sox for him. He wasn’t much of an addition, however, as he managed a -0.4 WAR. Myers, on the other hand, was able to provide them with a 0.6 WAR rating, despite a sub-par -7.7 Def. Most of that was due to his struggles in playing CF, something that can’t be easy to do in the cavernous Petco Park. Meanwhile, Castillo is ranked 21st on the Padres Top Prospects list and Reyes didn’t make the list.

Jun 23, 2015; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Diego Padres third baseman Will Middlebrooks (11) hits a double against the San Francisco Giants during the eighth inning at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

Both Middlebrooks and Myers spent much of the season on the DL or in the minors. However, Steamer is kind to Myers for 2016, projecting a 2.1 WAR if he’s able to remain healthy all season long. For Middlebrooks, Steamer has him remaining average at 0.0 WAR on the year.

For those performances, Middlebrooks (controlled through 2018) will cost the Padres $1.5m if MLBTR’s arbitration figures are correct and agreed to, while Myers (controlled through 2019) has 1 more season remaining at league minimum before he enters his first arbitration eligible season.

Overall, thus far, there isn’t much to like when it comes to the Padres haul aside from the promise that Castillo may develop into a decent pitcher and that Myers will eventually be able to make good on his talents.

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The Nationals were smaller players in this deal but definitely got one of the better pieces in Turner. Any time you can nab a potential all-star caliber middle-infielder without dealing from your MLB roster, you’ve done extremely well, as they did. In his short time in Washington and with minimal playing time, he added a 0.1 WAR and projects to increase that total to 1.7 WAR based on Steamer. He’ll provide the Nationals with a replacement for Ian Desmond, assuming he doesn’t return, and will show off his stellar defensive abilities.

Joe Ross was one of the most under rated parts of this trade and he showed why in 2015. His 1.4 WAR was an impressive and much needed addition to the Nationals and one of their few bright surprises. He’s expected to chip in with 1.6 WAR in 2016 based on Steamer.

Combined, Turner and Ross provided the Nationals with 1.5 WAR in 2015 and are set to add 3.3 WAR in 2016. Needless to say that they’re ecstatic this deal went through as they made out like bandits.

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On the surface, it’s easy to decide the Nationals won this trade overall because of how great their two additions have done thus far. However, it’s the promise of the rewards the Rays may reap in 2016 and beyond that is most intriguing of all.

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Barely 20 years old, Bauers is set to push for a roster spot by the end of 2016. His ability to hit off-speed pitching and maintain his power in AA was impressive in 2015, particularly when you consider he only struck out 14.4% of the time. To manage a 105 wRC+ at such a young age in AA was great to see and the recently published

KOTAH top 100 prospects

list from Fangraphs has him listed as the 7th best prospect. In short, he has a very high ceiling and if he is as professional a hitter as it would seem, he may rival Turner as the most valuable hitter in this deal.

The power display Souza put on in 2015 (32 extra base hits in 373 AB) was exactly what the Rays were hoping for when they acquired him. They hoped it would be with a better line and fewer strike outs, but if he can even those out, he’s on course for a great time in Tampa. His 1.5 WAR in 2015 was tops in this trade, and he’s projected to achieve a 1.3 WAR in 2016. He will have to improve on his -0.4 UZR if he wants to remain in RF long-term, but overall the Rays have to feel great about his .174 ISO.

And to top it all off, the Rays also received what seems to be a decent LHP arm in Travis Ott. He managed a sound 3.0 BB9 and 8.4 SO9, and any time you can find a big lefty without control issues who shows promise, you’ve done well. Still in LoA, he could take a leap forward with a strong showing in 2016.

Rene Rivera was one of the few disappointments in the returns the Rays received, as his -0.9 WAR indicates. His lack of offensive capabilities basically washed out his defensive performance which was well above-average. He did show glimpses of potential at the plate with 19 extra base hits, but his 27% K% was hard to take.

Finally, we’ll have to see how Burch Smith rebounds in 2016. He made it to The Show as a 23-year-old after dominating AAA with a 3.39 ERA and 1.197 whip. If he comes back from TJ surgery and proves to be as great as he was before the injury – or better – the Rays may wind up getting a better haul than the Nationals got.

Grades

In setting the grades for each team, we need to consider what they got in 2015 and what they project to get in 2016 and beyond. The Nationals get a middle infielder who fits in at the top of their lineup and provides outstanding defensive abilities. They also get starting depth, and both are controllable through 2021 at a minimum at very affordable costs.

Meanwhile, the Padres could feasibly be forced to cut bait from Myers if his arbitration costs wind up being greater than his value to the Padres. They should get decent value from him overall, but nothing like what they imagined when they dealt so much to get him. The rest of their haul is, well, uninspiring.

The Rays get a power bat in Souza who may be able to reach the 25+ HR mark in 2016. They possibly have a better bat right behind him in Bauers, a player who they’ll control longer than the Padres will control Myers. And they have 2 pitchers who may make an impact in 2017 and beyond. In short, the Rays improved at the plate and on the mound while dealing a player they had lost faith in.

That’s why we’re assigning the following grades to each team:

  • Nationals: A+
  • Rays: A+
  • Padres: F

Next: Tampa Bay Rays Top 50 Prospects: #30 Patrick Leonard

It’s not often that you see a 3-way deal with 2 teams making out as well as the Nationals and Rays did last offseason. There’s a possibility that they both took advantage of a new GM that was trying to do too many things at the same time and misevaluated this deal as a result. There’s no denying that if you offered them the opportunity to reverse the deal, they’d grab it in a heartbeat.

Instead, we all get to see the Rays and Nationals reap the rewards of a deal well done and wonder if there’s another one coming our way this offseason.

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