Welcome back to our front office rewind for the 2015 season. We took a moment to consider the front office structure at the beginning of this week, including some musings on adding Quinton McCracken to the VP level, so if you missed that give it a read.
Matt Silverman the GM
Now it's time to dive into the season itself.
Rays sign C J.P. Arencibia to minor league deal
How did this guy stay in the minors for so long? He would have to wait all the way until past the trade deadline for his promotion, but then he passed all the tests. By the end of season, Rivera was out of favor and Casali was injured. JPA had his opportunity and here's what he did since then: 152 wRC+ and .388 wOBA , hitting .310/.315/.606 over 73 plate appearances, and that includes six homeruns.
It's unlikely a full season of JPA looks like this, as his full season wRC+ marks were 91, 87, and 57 since 2011. He was a part time player in 2014 with a 64 wRC+ and held a 99 wRC+ in Durham. He'd had 22 home runs in the minors and started out trying to win over the Rays as first base depth, but he ended the season catching games and throwing out runners. Has he turned a corner? His career 28.7% strikeout rate and current 1.4% walk rate make him a hard guy to pencil in for next year.
Rays trade cash considerations for LHP Xavier Cedeno
Previously claimed by the Dodgers from the Nationals, the lefty reliever was on the bubble for both of those franchises due to his lack of contract options. The Rays benefited here simply from roster rules, picking up a valuable left handed reliever -- something the Rays somewhat lacked in the high minors.
The Rays would later trade minor league first baseman Alex Simon to the White Sox for cash considerations. You've never heard of Alex Simon, and probably never will again, but I have to wonder if the moves helped balance each other at all.
For his part, Cedeno became a very important clubhouse presence and team leader in bullpen.
Rays sign OF Grady Sizemore to minor league deal
33-year old Grady Sizemore played in 96 games for a half season's worth of plate appearances in 2015, providing a veteran presence in the clubhouse and hit for a 126 wRC+ as a starter in the second half, most recently batting second in the Rays lineup over the final month.
~~~2015 MLB DRAFT~~~
Rays trade RHP Kyle Winkler for 1B Marc Krauss, claim RHP Preston Guilmet
I considered skipping over this minor deal to acquire first baseman Marc Krauss. He spent all of a week on the roster in the midst of series of injuries. It was a plug and play out of necessity. Quite inconsequential. The same could be said for Guilmet, who had a very short life as a Rays player.
Rays trade RHP Enderson Franco for RHP Garrett Fulenchek (three team deal)
This is one of my favorite trades on this list. The Marlins were willing to trade away $500K of allowance in the international spending pool for a minor prospect, while their division rival Braves were in the market for the same amount, and willing to deal their second round draft pick from 2014. The Rays were happy to oblige.
Playing the middle man, the Rays upgraded an arm you'd never heard of for the 66th pick from the previous draft. Fulenchek immediately slots into the Rays top-20 prospects at age 19 with a high 90's arm. There's questions as to why the Braves would trade him, but it's a good get either way. You can read a lot more on Fulenchek here.
Rays trade OF David DeJesus for RHP Eduar Lopez
It's hard to see this as anything more than a salary dump, as DeJesus was owed north of $3M to finish the year while other guys like Grady Sizemore could effectively take his place on the bench, and in the clubhouse, on a minor league contract.
This deadline deal was not positive for the team's psyche, with many players (including Archer) vocally upset to see him go. The return of Lopez wasn't much to get thrilled about.
Rays trade RHRP Kevin Jepsen for RHP Chih-Wei Hu and RHP Alex Tapia
Surprise! The Rays were in the playoff hunt and dealt one of three high leverage bullpen players. That's not what a competing team usually does! The result of the trade was two quality arms coming into the system from the Twins, who overpaid for Jepsen in their desperate search for a closer. The Rays had a price for Jepsen, like they surely do for every player on the roster, and Minnesota paid it.
The Twins would be on the outside looking in as they and the Angels barely missed the playoffs this year, but this trade made them competitive. Meanwhile, the Rays picked up two arms who are arguably top-20 talents.
Boxberger and McGee were publicly upset with the trade, and the deal made the Major League Rays worse. Tampa Bay would fail to add to the bullpen for the rest of the season as the team's playoff hopes dwindled, but in terms of value this is a stellar trade for Silverman et al.
~~~TRADE DEADLINE ENDS~~~
Rays claim OF Daniel Nava
Inexplicably, the Red Sox put a beloved player on the waiver wire, and the Rays were more than happy to bring him on board. He was out of options and batting a 64 wRC+ so the move was understandable, but the Rays saw the value in the kid who hit a 127 wRC+ in the 2013 World Series run and picked him up.
The switch hitting outfielder can play first base well enough, which may provide extra value in 2016. In his career, Nava has hit right-handed pitching very well (119 wRC+) and could slot into a platoon with the right-handed hitting Richie Shaffer next season.
In the final installment we'll wrap up Silverman's overall performance, but first let's just consider his in-season moves.
Some of his moves payed immediate dividends at the Major League Level (Cedeno and Arencibia). Acquiring Daniel Nava was a low-risk buy-low on a major league player that may still pay off, while other trades definitely hurt the Rays chances this year (Jepsen and DeJesus). The Jepsen trade improved the Rays farm system, however, while the DeJesus trade only improved the pocketbook.
How would you grade Silverman's in-season performance?