It has been a cycle that Rays fans have gotten fairly used to over the past few years. The club develops a glut of pitching, reaps the benefits of that depth for a year or two and then uses the excess to acquire young talent that will help the club down the road.
We saw it in the James Shields trade, where the club acquired Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi and Patrick Leonard, all pieces not yet big league ready. We saw it when the Rays dealt Matt Garza, acquiring Chris Archer, Robinson Chirinos, Brandon Guyer and Sam Fuld, and the again trade took years for the Rays to finally see a significant benefit from it. Even the David Price deal, which brought in Drew Smyly, Nick Franklin and Willy Adames was more of a win-soon move than a win-now move.
But now, Matt Silverman and company have bucked that trend.
In trading Nate Karns, CJ Riefenhauser and Boog Powell to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for Brad Miller, Logan Morrison and Danny Farquhar, the Rays have made a move clearly designed to help the club in 2016 regardless of how it pans out in the future.
Don't get me wrong, Brad Miller, the centerpiece of this deal, has four years of control left and certainly could be a great asset for the team in those four years. However, if the Rays were looking at the future alone, Miller would not have been an ideal target. The club already possess Daniel Robertson, one of the top prospects in the system and the heir apparent at shortstop. He should hit Triple-A for the first time next season and will likely be big-league ready by the end of 2016 or early 2017.
The team also has Willy Adames. At 20 years old and having never played above High-A he is a big further off, but he could be the Rays best shortstop option by 2018. Even beyond that, there is some organizational depth in the middle infield with the likes of Nick Franklin, Ryan Brett, Jake Hager, Adrian Rondon, Kean Wong, Andrew Velazquez, Christian Toribio, Michael Russell and others.
The Rays did not acquire Miller because they had a future need at shortstop or second base. They acquired him because they needed a shortstop for this year, and with the free agent market thin at the position and financial resources limited, acquiring a guy like Miller was the best way to make the team better in 2016. If/when Robertson or Adames forces the club's hand, a logjam at short is something they can figure out at that point.
In return, the Rays gave up a controllable starter in Nate Karns. Granted, he will be 28 years old soon but is still under a rookie contract for five more years and is coming off a solid debut season. In giving him up, they lose a guy who could have factored into their rotation or the back end of the bullpen for years to come, and as the Rays have shown, we know how valuable pitching depth can be.
Even in the secondary part of the deal, the Rays gave up plenty of future talent to acquire win-now pieces. Logan Morrison is only controllable for one season before he hits free agency. However, the Rays needed a left-handed with pop bat after they hit .248/.310/.393 against righties last season.
Danny Farquhar might be the most future-minded piece acquired in the deal. With four years of control left, he could be an asset in the back-end of the bullpen if he can regain his 2014 form, when he posted a 2.66 ERA and 10.8 K/9. Of course, he also may end up providing little to no value if he cannot over come his 2015 struggles (5.12 ERA, career-low 8.5 K/9).
For their secondary pieces, the Rays gave up prospects Boog Powell and CJ Riefenhauser. Powell had one of the better breakouts in the club's system, hitting .295/.385/.392 between Double-A and Triple-A and emerging as a guy who could be a low-tier starter in the majors sooner rather than later. Riefenhauser has struggled in the big leagues but has a 2.15 ERA in 85 Triple-A appearances and could become an asset in the Mariners bullpen next season. Both are controllable for six seasons. Both are assets the Rays would typically covet.
Clearly, this was a move that the Rays made with 2016 in mind.
In total, the Rays are giving up 17 potential seasons of control while, by my count, getting back just nine. The Rays gave up three separate controllable players, and while that means they may lose the future part of this deal, it is nice for a change to see them make a move that will help the team in the short-term.