Although this transaction means absolutely nothing for the 2010 Tampa Bay Rays, the signing of Ricky Orta is a move that has me intrigued. Much like the minor-league deal handed to Matt Bush, the Rays are taking a low-risk chance on a talented arm left on the scrap heap.
Unlike Bush, we will not see Orta throw a pitch this season. He is out for the 2010 season as he rehabs from Tommy John Surgery. The Seattle Mariners released Orta, their fourth-round pick in 2006, during spring training. Despite the injury, Orta is worth the flier and the rehab time.
Drafted out of the University of Miami, Orta, began his professional career as a starter in the Seattle organization. After battling through some minor injuries, and control issues, he was converted to a reliever full-time in early 2009.
Yes, he was old for his level, but Orta dominated the Southern League last season. In 41.2 innings, he struck out 41 batters while walking 18. He allowed just one long ball to leave the yard, giving him a 1.94 ERA and a 2.98 FIP (fielding independent pitching). He's always been a bit old for his level, but Orta's career K/9 of 9.1 is still worth noting.
Besides for control and injury concerns, another reason for the change from starter to reliever was a lack of secondary offerings. Before the surgery, Orta flashed a low- to mid-90s fastball and a slider/curveball hybrid, more commonly known as a slurve. While his fastball has been successful, his slurve is far from a complete product.
There is a decent chance Orta never contributes to the Rays at any level. However, the move is a small example of the process exhibited by this organization. If nothing else, Orta becomes the latest low-risk/potential-reward signing that could help the team in the future.