On May 25, the Tampa Bay Rays pulled a name out of the air and traded for pitcher Wilmer Font. His numbers wouldn’t have jumped off any stats sheets. Where did he come from?
Pitchers with a career big league ERA above ten earned runs per nine innings don’t usually land on many radar screens. How did the interest of the Tampa Bay Rays become piqued enough to make the deal for RHP Wilmer Font?
Wilmer Font spent parts of two seasons with the Dodgers, appearing in nine games and 14 innings. In that short time, he allowed better than two base runners to reach base per inning and had an eye-popping 12.86 ERA. Do you think Dodgers President of Baseball Operations and, more importantly to Rays fans, the chief architect of the 2008 World Series run in Tampa Bay, had anything to do with this? Does a text exchange between Friedman and current Rays President Matt Silverman go something like this? “Go on, trade for him. I dare you.”
Friedman and Silverman spent a lot of time in the spotlight together her in Tampa Bay. You have to figure their casual and professional relationship has continued since Friedman escaped for more money out west. My attention is drawn to this because Wilmer Font has actually pitched quite adequately since coming to Tampa Bay.
In five games, including one “opening”, Font has a 3.24 ERA while striking out seven in 8 1/3 innings. This is a pitcher who was once a top-ten prospect of the Texas Rangers, so he is someone who has succeeded in the past. But, 2011 Tommy John surgery certainly didn’t help his progress.
Rays Front Office and connections around the league
Now, I’m not suggesting anything bad at all in regards to friendly back and forth banter between friends and past colleagues. Quite honestly, this may be one of the best advantages for the Tampa Bay Rays. Unfortunate for Friedman and the Dodgers, they seemingly weren’t in a position to develop Font back to respectability. Font was designated for assignment on April 23 and traded him to the Oakland Athletics two days later. Then, after continued unimpressive appearances in Oakland, the A’s came to the same result.
The Rays are in a better position to take a chance on a pitcher like Wilmer Font. If there was ever a low-pressure, high reward situation, it is with the Rays. Font only serves as one example of where it seems the Rays front office have good working relationships with other teams and are willing to strike a quick deal.
As another example, one doesn’t have to look any further than Seattle and Mariners GM Jerry DiPoto. He has made eight trades over the years with Tampa Bay. Not surprisingly, that number is only followed by five trades each with the Oakland A’s and Los Angeles Dodgers. Notice a theme?
It doesn’t need to end there. Tonight’s starting pitcher for the Rays will be Ryan Yarbrough, who arrived with Mallex Smith from Seattle for Drew Smyly. Mallex was only in Seattle long enough to get a drink of water. Seattle traded for him only to turn him around to Tampa Bay hours later. Starting in the infield for the Rays is Joey Wendle, off to a great start in his rookie season. He came from the A’s in December for a PTBNL who became minor league catcher Jonah Heim.
The Rays, A’s, Dodgers and Mariners have teamed up nicely over the past several seasons. How soon until the next move is made?