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Tampa Bay Rays: Drew Smyly Traded to Seattle Mariners

By Althea Pashman
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It happened during the winter meetings when talks about a potential trade with the Mariners actually planted the seeds that led to the Tampa Bay Rays trade of Drew Smyly.

When the projected arbitration salaries from MLBTradeRumors became available, it was a sure sign that Drew Smyly and his projected $6.9 million salary would move to the top of the list as the most likely player to be traded by the Tampa Bay Rays this off-season.

As the winter meetings approached the Rays made it known that they were willing to listen to any and all offers, making just about any player not named Evan Longoria or Blake Snell available.

Throughout the off-season, there were rumors and lots of speculation that Chris Archer would be traded and it would be the same for Jake Odorizzi and Drew Smyly. The players would be linked to the Dodgers, Cubs, Atlanta, Seattle and a handful of others.

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During the winter meetings, Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto contacted the Tampa Bay Rays about a potential trade for Smyly. However, the talks stalled but the seeds were planted for a possible return down the road. The question though is what stalled the talks.

Speculation on my part is that the Mariners had few prospects and of those they had, they were not willing to give up. That changed on Wednesday morning when Dipoto began his day with a four-player trade with the Atlanta Braves.

Seattle traded two minor league lefthanders to the Braves in Luiz Gohara and Thomas Burrows with the Mariners acquiring outfielder Mallex Smith and reliever Shae Simmons. Dipoto then flipped Smith along with left-hander Ryan Yarbrough their No. 13 prospect and minor league shortstop Carlos Vargas to the Rays for Smyly.

"“Smyly really fits us,” Dipoto said, noting the five-year veteran is a fly-ball pitcher who should fare well in Safeco Field with Seattle’s new defensive-minded outfield. “He’s a proven performer in the American League. He fills out our rotation nicely.” Dipoto said he spent more time this winter in pursuit of Smyly than on any of the other things he’s done."

Financially Smyly fits within the Mariners’ payroll despite his projected salary – however, he does come with two years of club control through arbitration before he is eligible for free agency.

Over his past four seasons, Smyly went 24-15 with a 3.24 ERA between the Detroit Tigers and Rays. 2016 was a disaster though he did post career highs in starts (30) and innings (175.1) his groundball rate was just 31.3% and he allowed 1.6 home runs per nine innings (32 total). On the season he was 7-12 with a career-worst 4.88 ERA… he also fanned 167 batters. Acquired from Detroit at the July 31, 2014 trade deadline in the David Price trade, Smyly was 15-15 with a 3.95 ERA in 49 starts with the Rays.

In acquiring Mallex Smith, the Rays are getting a player with at least five years of service, despite earning one year of MLB service time in 2016, should Smith spend three to four weeks in the minors to open the season, the Rays will gain another year of club control.

The 23-year-old Smith hit .238/.316/.365 (45-for-189) in 72 games (50 starts; 32-CF, 17-LF, 1-RF) last season with the Atlanta Braves, missing nearly three months due to a fractured left thumb. His 16 stolen bases ranked fifth among major league rookies. He is primarily valued for his defense and baserunning, though he has put up strong numbers at the plate throughout the majority of his minor-league career.

He is a career .296/.382/.389 (456-for-1,539) hitter over parts of five minor league seasons, having recorded 230 stolen bases across 399 games including a minor league leading 88 steals in 2014.

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Kyle Glaser of Baseball America writes that Smith uses that speed to play elite defense in center, to the point he has been projected as a potential future Gold Glove winner. His offense is his biggest question mark, with his lack of power making his success fully dependent on his ability to make frequent contact and work counts.

Ranked as one of the top available international prospects a few years ago, Vargas is just 17 years-old and according to JJ Cooper of Baseball America, was set to rank Vargas 26th on Seattle’s upcoming top 30 prospects list and Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs says there’s “sneaky” value in Vargas, whom he tabs as eventual third baseman with “big pull power projection” and a good approach.

Named Southern League Pitcher of the Year and rated as the Mariners’ No. 11 prospect per MLB.com, Ryan Yarbrough tied for the Double-A Southern League lead in wins (12) and was second in ERA (2.95) and WHIP (1.11) in 2016. He was considered a strong candidate to see big league innings in 2017 and Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper writes that he would have placed 12th on BA’s soon-to-be-released list of the Mariners’ top 30 prospects.

“You have to give up something to get something. The type of return and talent we got we thought was something that made sense for us and we are eager to see how it plays out from here,” Ray’s senior vice president of baseball operations/general manager Erik Neander said.

Interesting trade in that the Rays have again added another left-handed hitter (Smith), who was likely the “key” to making this trade happen and another strong defender that is primarily a centerfielder just a day removed from signing free agent Colby Rasmus.

You have to wonder if there is another trade in the workings, which may or may not include another starter along with an outfielder – with the depth in the outfield, Rasmus, Kiermaier, Souza, Dickerson, Mahtook, Smith and now Jason Coates whom the Rays claimed off waivers from the White Sox on Wednesday.

Next: Tampa Bay Rays Rumors: Forsythe Back on Dodgers Radar

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I would speculate that Coates, Mahtook and Smith would begin the season at Triple-A Durham, since all have options and as mentioned above, the Rays would gain another year of control on Smith.

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