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Tampa Bay Rays trade candidate: Jake McGee

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Should the Rays trade their flame-throwing lefty?

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Jake McGee was electric in 2014, taking control of the closer job from Grant Balfour early in the season. He then combined with Brad Boxberger to become one of the most effective set-up/closer duos in the league. However, off-season shoulder surgery and an in-season torn meniscus limited McGee to only 37 innings in 2015. Recently, the Padres dealt their closer, Craig Kimbrel, to the Red Sox and netted two top-100 prospects as well as two more exciting players with potential, so the question has to be asked, should the Rays deal Jake McGee?

Profile

McGee was drafted by the Rays during the 2004 draft and had an excellent start to his professional career. He seemed destined to reach the majors quickly, as he rapidly racked up strikeout numbers with a solid fastball-curveball combo (Baseball America called the curve his best pitch), while mixing in a decent change.

Unfortunately, he would undergo Tommy John surgery in 2008, but came back strong, actually pitching better than he had before the surgery. Although he was a starter in the minors, the Rays promoted him in 2010 and stashed him in the bullpen. In 2011, he split time between Durham and the majors,  and now has spent the past four years as a fulltime major league reliever.

McGee has been dominant over that time frame, throwing almost 260 major league innings. During that time he has put up a 2.41 ERA, along with a 2.33 FIP. He also possesses solid control to compliment his high strikeout totals as has a 30.8 K% and a 6.9 BB%.

Why is McGee a Trade Candidate?

McGee has been an invaluable member of the Rays bullpen for several years now. During the first two months of 2015, not having him to help close out games left a huge hole. However, he only has two years of team control left and is due to make close to $5 million in 2016 after arbitration. That's an excellent deal for the Rays, however it would make him the sixth-highest-paid player on the team assuming the team keeps both James Loney and Logan Morrison around.

There's not a whole lot of depth in the team's bullpen, but one might hope that Enny Romero could try to fill the void that would be left by Jake McGee. The Rays have been masters of cycling through their bullpen and uncovering diamonds in the rough, as evidenced by the numerous pitchers who have come to St. Pete and left for big pay days. So no, there are not Jake McGees everywhere, but the Rays are one of the teams most able to replace him.

Also, McGee currently holds a valuable spot on the 40-man roster, and with the Rays needing several spaces, a trade of McGee for a young prospect would open up a spot.

Value

As I mentioned above, the Padres just dealt Craig Kimbrel to the Boston Red Sox for Manuel Margot, Javier Guerra, Carlos Asuaje, and Logan Allen. The first two of those players were ranked 25th and 76th respectively by MLB.com, while the other two and are in the top 30 for the Red Sox organization.

Kimbrell and McGee have had similar careers with Kimbrell easily being the more dominant pitcher, but he has been well-compensated for that, as he signed a four-year extension in 2014 that guaranteed him $42 million from 2014 to 2017, with a $13 million option for 2018. McGee will be paid just about half of what Kimbrell gets these next two years, which compensates for lesser numbers he'd put up.

PITCHER ERA FIP K% BB% HR AVG IP G
Jake McGee 2.77 2.58 30.8% 6.9% 21 .200 259.2 297
Craig Kimbrell 1.63 1.72 41.2% 9.5% 18 .157 348.1 355

So McGee wouldn't net quite as much as Kimbrell did, but there's still a ransom to be had for the flame throwing lefty.