Rays & Mariners Tango Again
It is not unusual for the Rays to make a deal out of the blue because they rarely make the deals that are bantered about on social media. That said, it is very unusual for them to make a deal this early in the offseason, let alone one involving a starting pitcher with years of team control remaining. Yet, the six-player trade the Rays and Mariners pulled off last night is one that made quite a bit of sense for both teams and the names involved were not rather surprising.
A high-level look at the Rays’ needs heading into this offseason would highlight a few areas of need. Asdrubal Cabrera’s certain departure via free agency and John Jaso’s likely departure creates two voids at shortstop and DH as well as taking away two of the better lefty bats in the lineup from a team that already struggled against righty pitching. The Rays always tend to shop the clearance rack for free agents, but even that free agent bucket is thin this season.
The names in that market that bat left-handed and DH or “play” a position are the aforementioned Jaso, Justin Morneau, Matt Joyce, and Grady Sizemore, Logan Morrison is projected to make around $4M in arbitration, which will be cheaper than what both Jaso and Morneau will get on the open market and comparable to what the known knowns of Joyce and Sizemore would get. Morrison’s name has been involved in trade rumors with the Rays before, so his acquisition isn’t a big surprise given the market, the price, and the prior interest. Morrison certainly has his flaws as he struggles defensively and many have questioned his lower half health throughout his career. Assuming Morrison stays on the roster, it’s easy to envision him as the primary DH against righties as he has a career 111 wRC+ against righties but has seen more at bats against lefties throughout his career than he should.
At shortstop, the natural shortstops on the market are Clint Barmes, Ian Desmond, Alexei Ramirez, Jimmy Rollins, and Asdrubal Cabrera. Cabrera’s departure leaves a void at a position the Rays were thin at as both Tim Beckham and Nick Franklin did not do much in 2015 to give confidence in either player being an everyday player in 2016. Enter Brad Miller – another guy that the Rays have been tied to a few times, most recently during the David Price trade that ended up bringing Nick Franklin to town.
The numbers and reports on Miller’s defense paint him as league-average in a best-case scenario in the field defensively much like the reputation Cabrera brought to town last offseason. Offensively, Miller would be best utilized as the everyday shortstop against righties as he has a career 113 wRC+ against righties whereas his number against lefties is half that at 62. Ideally, he and Beckham platoon at the position. Scouts aren’t certain that Daniel Robertson can stick at shorstop, so if Miller does well, the job could be his for the rest of the decade. Hanselman has a more in-depth piece planned for Miller later this week as he is the linchpin for this deal working or not.
Danny Farquhar has the potential to be an upgrade to the middle relief options than Kevin Cash had last season. On the media call last night, Matt Silverman said they looked at the body of work with Farquhar rather than his recent performance. The three year body of work shows that he has become more hittable each year as his swinging strike rate he declined each season to where it is now closer to league average for relievers whereas it was one of the better ones in 2013. Part of that has been that his fastball has become increasingly more hittable.
Farquhar throws three pitches, with the cutter being his favorite one, but his overall command needs improvement. The cutter is typically a pitch pitchers will use to the edges of the zone, but Farquhar tended to locate his over the plate in 2015.
Cutters over the plate and fastballs up accounted for 70% of the pitches he threw in 2015 and the league hit .298 and slugged .539 against that mixture. Jim Hickey is likely to adjust that process to get him back to a better place.
In all, the Rays traded away 17 years of team control to gain 3 players with 8 years of control left to fill immediate needs. They filled some immediate needs on the roster at affordable prices versus waiting to see what options were left on the free agent market as the prices were set and dealt from a position of strength. It could be said the Rays bought low on Nate Karns and sold him high, but only if Miller becomes the league-average shortstop that the team hopes he can be. The growth Karns showed last year with his changeup showed more potential that what most thought he was when he was acquired and he looks like he will be a solid 3/4 guy moving forward.