According to multiple reports the Rays have traded 2013 Rookie of the Year Wil Myers, along with primary catcher Ryan Hanigan, expensively signed LHP Jose Castillo, and under-sized 22-year old RHP Gerardo Reyes for four prospects and Padres catcher Rene Rivera.
As far as what's been dealt, there's significant worry here that the Rays are selling low.
When he was acquired, Myers was a top-five prospect in the game. Most recently, his 2014 season was a wash, with a broken wrist on a fielding blunder preventing him from fixing his sophomore slump. Furthermore, Myers has raw power but has too many holes in his current swing to make it all work. These are adjustable issues, and It's more than likely great things are in store for him, but you might not know if looking at last season.
Ryan Hanigan might have an affordable contract, but he's also been injured in 2014 which limited his ability to shine. Then there's Jose Castillo, a top-ten prospect candidate according to Keith Law's rankings from last winter who the Rays invested heavily in to land, and Mexican RHP Gerardo Reyes. Both are still very young.
Did the Rays get enough for such valuable pieces? What exactly are the Rays getting?
Rene Rivera - A Cheaper Hanigan
Rene Rivera tallied 18.3 RAA (runs above average) with his glove last season, according to StatCorner, above and beyond Ryan Hanigan's 2.2 and Curt Casali's 0.6. Baseball Prospectus also puts Rivera's glove in the top five, and in the grand scheme, their numbers show Rivera is roughly on par with Hanigan defensively. On offense, however, things get a little murky.
Rivera's glove has always been his strength, but there's worry he's a flash in the pan as his bat only just found life ten years after his debut with Seattle. Both Rivera and Hanigan project to ~86 wRC+ next season, but neither is a guarantee.
Now age 32, Rivera still has three more seasons of team control thanks to his lack of playing time. Prior to last season he'd seen more than 100 plate appearances at the major league level in only twice (2006, 2011). Most importantly, he's cheaper, still riding a rookie contract. Hanigan was due a minimum of $8 million over the next three years, and possibly more if his option was exercised.
For more on the catching aspect of this deal, Ian has a full analysis.
Steven Souza Jr. - Wil Myers, Take 2
Steven Souza was the International League MVP last season -- the same minor league division as the Durham Bulls -- and has posted remarkably consistent and impressive numbers on his way through the minors. He topped out at a .448 wOBA and 180 wRC+ in 96 games at Triple-A, including 18 homeruns and 26 stolen bases. All four were career bests. Souza also saw two separate big league promotions that gave him 26 games of experience at the beginning and end of last season.
Souza is an impressive player, Baseball America even called him a "physical specimen, with multiple loud tools" prior to the season. Baseball Prospectus notes his lower half has lots of power to tap into and both sites are high on his arm strength. He's got the defense to play in either outfield corner with above average tracking speeds that translate well to the bases.
The only knocks may be his age and a tendency to over-think. He's an older prospect, approaching his age 26 season. He didn't knock any socks off with his major league debut last season, save a stellar defensive play we'll get to in a moment.
Can we trust Souza will continue to impress as he moves to a full time role at the major league level? He likes to swing, which leads to strikeouts, and his hands aren't necessarily dependable at the plate, leading to whiffs. It's likely those reasons are why his prospect status never had helium even when his statistics ballooned. Still, his bat can play, he's entering the prime of his aging curve, and his defense is not shabby.
Take a look at his most famous moment to date: a diving catch for the final out of Zimmermann's no hitter last season.
The Rays must see much that they like, and if the Steamer projections are to be believed, production on the field will make up for any lack of hype:
Did I mention that comes with more power? Reading reports, I wouldn't be surprised if Souza continues his development with more thumping potential. I'll defer to Kiley McDaniel for Souza's swing:
Scouts do allow for larger players taking longer to grow into their bodies and Souza is 6'4/225, but some hitters hit a ton everywhere in the minors then hit a few notches worse in the majors. The margin for error is very small and being that big with long arms doesn't make it easy to make contact in the big leagues.
McDaniel goes on to call Souza a "swing and miss type", but notes, "that doesn't necessarily always show up in the stats." He notes scouts aren't thrilled with Souza, and then gives an offensive projection of Matt Joyce. I think the Rays are betting the over.
Souza's rookie status remains intact, so he will be under team control through 2020, an extra year than Myers.
Travis Ott - Left Handed Depth?
Yes, that's a question mark, and for good reason. There was hype for the rumored LHP added to the Rays haul, but I'm a bit skeptical at this point.
Travis Ott: Tall, skinny LHP, loose arm. Low 90s, CB & CH project to fringe avg. Making strides physically. 4/5 SP, very good 25th rd pick.— Jordan Gorosh (@jgorosh) December 17, 2014
Ott signed for $10,000 and hasn't necessarily outpaced his slot with performance. He made 13 starts between short-season Low-A Auburn and Class-A Hagerstown last season with a 3.93 ERA and 45 strikeouts in 55 innings.
This is not a statistical gem as far as I can see on Fangraphs or any other site, but at a minimum this easy throwing lefty is projectable. Sometimes that's all you need as a southpaw.
Accordingly, Ott has the ceiling of a back end starter and the floor of a LOOGY, which isn't a bad thing. He's young, born in 1995, and mean looking.
Is this a Rays scouting gem, or a throw in? I'm leaning toward the latter.
Burch Smith - Right Handed Depth.
Hard stop. Burch Smith is the opposite of Ott, having already broken into the majors in 2013 after rocketing through the Padres system. That season he was a top-ten prospect in their system, and one of many Padres with a killer name.
Come 2014, Smith would not make it six innings before he succumbed to injury in his right forearm, barely tossing more than a handful of frames the rest of the year. When a deal is hung up on physicals, Smith is a good example of why. He's said to be ready for Spring Training, but the staff surely wants to check him out. Either way, he may be worth the risk.
Like a lot of recent Rays acquisitions, Smith has a pitcher's body and a live arm. His stats have yet to be show stopping, but he has three above-average pitches, anchored by a fastball that touches above 95, followed by an ever improving change and slurve.
Smith will be serviceable in the majors, but there's some concern he doesn't get enough out of his pitches to survive multiple times through a line up, nor that his velocity can be maintained. Luckily, what he lacks in depth of movement he makes up for with deception.
The GIF above comes courtesy of Baseball Prospectus, and you can see deception further on display in the full vimeo.
Also via BP, a fun projection: According to PECOTA, Smith has an upside score of 52.1, which is a hair behind Mookie Betts and a notch ahead of C.J. Edwards. Take that as you will.
Jake Bauers - A typical Rays 1B
Bauers is 6-foot-1, possibly above 200lbs, and approaching his age-19 season. A seventh round draft choice out of high school in 2013, he's noted to have a good eye at the plate and mature approach, which is impressive given his young age.
His first year as a professional saw a 10.9% walk rate with a .364 wOBA and 128 wRC+ playing for Class-A Fort Wayne. The upper half of his body should still fill out with some power, but even if it doesn't he's got the bat-to-ball skills to move through any org, particularly while batting from the left side of the plate.
His defensive profile is limited to first base, which is not necessarily a bad thing. He comps well to Daric Barton who was dependable for the Athletics, if not a starter, but that analysis may simply be a product of both players graduating fron the same high school: Marina HS, in Huntington Beach.
Another comp just might be James Loney, but in either case, he still needs to grow into his own.
The above is the Rays haul in the likely trade. What the Rays gave up is another matter.
This trade easily could have been limited to San Diego and Tampa Bay, and it seems that it nearly was. Instead the Rays flipped what looks to be 2014's 13th overall pick Trea Turner and solid pitching prospect Joe Ross for Souza and Ott.
On paper, that looks like giving away two first round picks for a fourth outfielder and change, but accepting San Diego's haul alone has a different opportunity cost: time.
Turner should be a very good short stop one day, but he's also very far away, and the Rays want to replace Myers with defense, speed, and possibly power today. Making a move for Souza delivers on that front, with 20/20 potential in long balls and swiped bags
. The Rays haven't had that since B.J. Upton. The Rays weren't getting that in Wil Myers. The Rays might have that now, with far better defense in the outfielder acquired.
The Rays saw their opportunity to stay competitive, and they took it.
You Souza or lose.