The reactions were strong when news first broke that the Rays were sending off Alex Torres, and stronger when they included Jesse Hahn. At the time we knew Logan Forsythe was on his way to Tampa Bay, but not much else. Now that we have the full picture, it's still surprising.
In addition to Torres for Forsythe, the Rays are swapping one pitching prospect for three, and netting an infielder to round out the deal. And not just any infielder, but one who could tip the scales on this trade in one or two years.
Jesse Hahn is a nice piece to have. He has a big arm and a lot of power, but is also an injury risk. He'll be 25 next season, already had Tommy John, and has never made it through a full season without getting sidelined. There's a chance he could be a very good starter -- Jason Parks certainly thinks so, he ranked Hahn ahead of Taylor Guerrieri in his prospect rankings -- but there's a high risk of him being another easily injured bullpen arm.
So the Rays mitigated their risk.
John Sickles ranked two of those three arms in the Padres top-20 last season, and provided this brief review on their 2013 seasons:
14) Brad Boxberger, RHP, Grade C+: Solid season for Triple-A Tucson, 3.47 ERA with 72/18 K/BB in 49 innings, 44 hits. Has fanned 11 in nine major league innings. Age 25 now, has nothing left to prove in Triple-A, strikeout rate continues to point to bullpen upside.
19) Matt Andriese, RHP, Grade C+: 2.93 ERA with 88/23 K/BB in 117 innings, 115 hits between Double-A and Triple-A... a ground ball guy though not as extreme. Fourth/fifth starter potential.
The other arm appears to be RHP Matt Lollis, who was ranked as high as No. 5 in the Padres system in 2010, and then fell from grace. He returned to High-A and Double-A this season with high strikeouts and high walk rates along the way. Then there's Maxx Tissenbaum, a star in Low-A that saw his shine wear off last season.
Here's a deeper dive into each:
Brad Boxberger, RHRP
The Torres of the deal, from a depth perspective, Boxberger is major league ready and can perform in a middle relief roll well. He's capable of working against both handed batters, with a slider for the righties and a change up for the lefties, and the latter being particularly whiff-worthy. After all, he wouldn't be a Rays prospect without a killer change. Combined with a low-90's fastball, Boxby has a similar arsenal to what Torres offered.
He has some cleaning up to do. Better feel for his fastball and some more outs against same-handed batting should make him more elite than he was in 2013, but ZiPS believes moving to Tampa Bay should already provide a positive adjustment:
B. Bradley Boxberger TB ZiPS - 3.25 ERA in 72 IP (86 K), ERA+ of 118.— Dan Szymborski (@DSzymborski) January 22, 2014
Boxberger, originally acquired by the Padres in the Mat Latos deal, is under team control until 2020.
He technically owns a Sinker and Curve, which adds an element of surprise, and should be able to find a major league role in the near future. He's in the mix, come Spring Training.
Boxberger made the cut for opening day last year with the Padres, making 18 appearances over five stints with 24 strikeouts.
Notes from the Press Release:
- Over his final 15 appearances, he crafted a 2.08 ERA (17.1-IP, 4-ER) with 18 strikeouts
- In 42 appearances with Triple-A Tucson in 2013, he averaged 14.0 strikeouts per nine innings, the best strikeout rate in the Pacific Coast League (min. 50 IP)
Matt Andriese, RHSP
Andriese takes the place of Hahn on the depth chart with a projection towards the back-end of the rotation. He's not as sexy of a prospect, but he could reach the majors soon, and when he does ZiPS is projecting a league-average performance.
Matt Andriese TB ZiPS - 4.09 ERA in 132 IP, ERA+ of 93.— Dan Szymborski (@DSzymborski) January 22, 2014
A groundball pitcher, he relies on a fastball that tops out at 95 (but sits around 91), and has a lot of sudden movement as it reaches the plate. He also owns a hard curve and falling splitter. Andriese has great control of all three pitches.
His game is described as physical, and he shows a lot of potential to eat innings at a major league level, raising his floor. His arm action is long and across his body, which has a deceptive factor but weakens his command.
Andriese split his time between Double- and Triple-A last season, starting 27 games and struggling with men on base.
Notes from the Press Release:
- The Texas League midseason All-Star ranked among Padres minor league leaders in ERA (3.27, fifth), wins (11, second) and strikeouts (105, fifth)
- Over three minor league seasons, the righthander has gone 26-16 with a 3.18 ERA (322.1-IP, 114-ER) and 278 strikeouts to 77 walks
Matt Lollis, RHRP
6'9", 250 lbs. -- This kid is huge! And he's a project.
He returned to High-A ball in 2013 to begin his career anew in the bullpen after fizzling out as a formerly high regarded arm. Long ago, in 2010, Baseball America ranked Lollis No. 5 in the Padres system. He fell to No. 21 the following year, and out of grace by 2012.
Baseball America had this to say about Lollis after he was drafted:
Lollis throws four pitches, with his high three-quarters arm slot affording him good plane on a 92-93 mph fastball that peaks at 95... Nicknamed Big Country because of his gigantic frame, Lollis nonetheless shows surprising athleticism and a nuanced feel for his craft, which allow him to fill the strike zone with ease. He has quick feet, belying his size, but he'll have to monitor his conditioning carefully so his body doesn't get out of control. Lollis has mid-rotation potential if his changeup develops.
Out of the bullpen Lollis can touch serious heat, approaching 100. The rest of his aresenal is a mid-70's knuckle curve that matches Hellickson and Price, a low-90's slurve, and a change up that each grade average or better. Reports across the board note great athleticism and poor control.
Lollis's transition is, of course, a work in progress. The Rays just need two of his pitches to click, however, and his future in the bullpen can take off behind some monster heat.
Maxx Tissenbaum, 2B/C
#Rays got Maxx Tissenbaum as the 5th player in the deal.— Chris Cotillo (@ChrisCotillo) January 22, 2014
Tissenbaum was one of three star players in the Low-A Northwest League in 2012, along side Cubs famed first base prospect Dan Vogelbach and Mariners catcher Mike Zunino, as ranked by SCOUT:
SCOUT is a system used by Fangraphs to assess low minors performances where small sample size can be compared against the league and then projected for future performance. That 139 mark for Maxx is particularly impressive given his age, as most players at this time would have been in Rookie ball.
In 2013, Zunino leapt into Double- and Triple-A for 67 games before finding himself in the majors. Vogelbach started in Class-A ball and sported a 128 wRC+ before earning a 17 game promotion to High-A to finish the year, which he crushed.
Meanwhile, Maxx saw a dip from his stellar 2012, dropping from a .378 wOBA and 131 wRC+ in 47 Northwest League games to a .341 wOBA and 109 wRC+ at Class-A. Not horrible, but not turning heads either, in a year he began a conversion to catcher.
An 11th round pick from 2012, Tissenbaum could surprise us all in 2014.
The Rays have a glut of left handed relievers and minor league starters. Acquiring Forsythe was the goal, but along the way they turned Torres and Hahn into right-handed-Torres with more consistency, another starter to replace Hahn, a project arm with high upside, and an infielder that showed much early promise and hasn't left A-ball.
Maxx Tissenbaum tips the scales toward me liking this trade, even if Hahn was much to sacrifice. It should be interesting to see how the Rays treat the presence of S-Rod moving forward.
This article was updated to include that Maxx Tissenbaum has also played time at catcher.