Tampa Bay Rays: How about that Yandy Diaz trade?
By Austin Reimann
The Tampa Bay Rays are in Cleveland for a 4 game set, so it is time to check in on the Yandy Diaz/Jake Bauers deal.
On December 13th, many were shocked to hear that the Tampa Bay Rays had dealt one of their top prospects to Cleveland and sent millions to Seattle in exchange for a 27-year-old infielder with nowhere to play and an inability to get the ball in the air.
The top prospect was Jake Bauers, the millions totaled five, and the 27-year-old infielder was Yandy Diaz. Now, only a handful of months later, the Rays’ front office is smiling. Bauers has struggled in Cleveland while Diaz has become a fixture in the heart of the Rays order.
The Rays bet on Diaz’s ability to hit the ball harder than most and his consistency at every level, including Cleveland. Though Diaz is 4 years older than Jake Bauers, both are under team control through the 2025 season. When paired with the Rays confidence in Diaz, the team control made the trade a no brainer.
They hoped that with a little work, Diaz could elevate some additional baseballs into the gaps and over some walls, increasing his production and value at the plate. Again, the Rays front office is smiling as Diaz bought in, put in a little work, and has deposited 9 balls into the seats (so far) and slugged at a .500 clip. Bauers, to this point, only has 4 homers.
Take a look at their stats so far:
Yandy Diaz: 1.2 WAR
156 AB // 9 HR // 22 RBI // 125 OPS+
.256 AVG // .339 OBP // .500 SLG
Jake Bauers: -.6 WAR
145 AB // 4 HR // 15 RBI // 74 OPS+
.228 AVG // .315 OBP // .345 SLG
And the deeper you dig, the better it looks for the Rays. Yandy Diaz ranks 39th in Major League Baseball with an average exit velocity of 91.5 MPH while Jake Bauers ranks 214th, averaging an 87.2 MPH off the bat. Furthermore, Diaz has barreled up 8.2% more balls in 2019 than he did in 2018 (12.6% v.s. 4.4%), and Bauers has barreled up 2.3% less (4.7% v.s. 7.0%).
The Indians front office must be scratching their heads as Diaz, who only hit one bomb in his 265 at-bats as an Indian, would now lead the Indians with 9 bombs. Carlos Santana, who was also involved in the three team trade, leads all Indian hitters with 8 homers.
Obviously Bauers is still young, but at first glance the trade seems to be just the no brainer that the Rays’ front office thought it to be. Bauers still has plenty of time to develop into the player that the Rays always planned, but for a team looking to compete now in the East, Yandy has been a huge boost from the right side.
It is worth noting that the Rays did get an additional piece in the trade, a right-handed pitcher by the name of Cole Sulser. The 29-year-old minor league mainstay started the season at Durham and has pitched to a middling 5.06 ERA across 16 IP. He has struck out an impressive 24 batters, though.
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Overall, the Indians/Rays portion of the 3 team blockbuster will continue to be examined as Bauers progresses and Diaz ages, but I can’t imagine the Rays have any regrets.