Wednesday, the new Rays regime made their first trade, sending lefty pitcher Cesar Ramos to Anaheim for righty reliever Mark Sappington. In four seasons with the Rays, the 30 year old Ramos made 167 big league appearances, including eight starts, mostly in 2014. He totaled 223.2 innings, posting a 4.04 FIP with an 18.6% strikeout rate and 10.0% walk rate.
Coming out of the Tampa Bay bullpen, he was relatively similarly effective against righties and lefties, sometimes being dispatched for multiple innings. After being paid $750,000 in 2014, Ramos is entering his second year of arbitration eligibility, with a salary set to creep above $1 million.
If the Rays are looking for a second lefty to go in the bullpen to complement Jake McGee, they have internal options. 27 year old Jeff Beliveau was effective in 24 big league innings, and top-30 prospect C.J. Riefenhauser made his big league debut in 2014. Additionally, in his third straight season for Durham, the 27 year old Adam Liberatore had his best year, striking out 34.8% of opponents and walking 6.7%.
In return, the Rays receive Mark Sappington who turns 24 later this month. The 6'5 right-hander has had an underwhelming career as a starter with Anaheim, but a mid-season move to the bullpen in 2014 has helped.
After a poor start to the season in the Arkansas (Double-A Texas League) rotation, he was sent back to Inland Empire in the Cal League but continued struggling in the rotation, losing seven of his eight starts. They moved him to the bullpen where he made 25 appearances, and his fastball velocity ticked up. In 32 innings, he struck out 37.4% of opponents and walked 7.6%. He did allow seven home runs though.
In that report from FanGraphs' Ron Shah and Kiley McDaniel (that includes video), it's noted his fastball now sits in the 94-95 MPH range but lacks movement which could account for the alarming home run rate (in addition to pitching in the Cal League's South division).
A lack of consistency from his mid-80's breaking ball and command of both pitches could hold him back from a role in the late-innings. He did improve his control when he moved to the bullpen, but his high effort delivery could be difficult to straighten out and improve his command.
Sappington is pitching for Mesa in the Arizona Fall League. He allowed six earned runs in nine innings with seven strikeouts and four walks. He doesn't have to be added to the 40 man roster for Rule 5 draft protection until next off-season, and I'd guess he's slated to open 2015 in Montgomery's bullpen.