The Rays have done the inevitable by trading Nathan Karns on the second day of free agency, but did so far earlier than anyone might have expected. In turn, the Rays grab next years potential starting short stop and add some much needed offense to next year's lineup.
Partnering with Jerry Dipoto -- the new master of ceremonies in Seattle -- the Rays and Mariners each exchanged three players: Heading to the Mariners are breakout rookie SP Nate Karns, young lefty reliever C.J. Riefenhauser, and top-twenty prospect OF Boog Powell.
With returning players from injury, Karns's career in Tampa Bay seemed destined for the bullpen. By dealing from the team's surplus of pitching, the Rays receive two desperately needed left handed bats in (likely DH) Logan Morrison and skilled SS Brad Miller, as well as once-respectable RHRP Danny Farquhar.
1B Logan Morrison was lauded for his bat in early quotes this evening from Rays President Matt Silverman, which spells out early intentions for DH use, but also provides important depth should the Rays want to move the expensive contract of James Loney this off-season. Morrison is entering his final year of arbitration (projected to make ~$4M), and is coming off a respectable 112 wRC+ vs right handed pitching in 2015.
SS Brad Miller was usurped from his position in Seattle this season, having usurped INF Nick Franklin (also traded to the Rays) not that long ago. Miller is under contract through 2019, and has transformed into somewhat of a utility player with the Mariners. He posted a 105 wRC+ overall last season, including a 125 wRC+ against right handed pitching.
RHRP Danny Farquhar is also under contract through 2019 and provides the Rays some depth in high leverage pitching situations, should he get his act back together. The former closer from 2013 saw his stats dip to a 5.12 ERA and 4.60 FIP in 2015.
This was clearly a move for offense by Tampa Bay, with the Rays able to move two players from a position of strength, while strategically dealing players with injury concerns.
Nate Karns was shut down in early September with forearm tightness after experiencing the early hook from manager Kevin Cash in nearly every outing. Likewise, Riefenhauser saw a dip in velocity in his return to the upper minors this year and battled inflammation in his throwing shoulder. It's possible that dealing either player merely defers risk.
Scrappy OF Boog Powell is a significant cost to pay, as he shows a lot of promise for his undersized frame, but his time in Tampa Bay will be hardly felt. Acquired alongside SS Daniel Robertson in the Ben Zobrist deal, Powell was a blip on the radar for the Rays. He's a top twenty prospect, but scouts are very divided on his potential.
In return, the Rays significantly improve one of their weakest aspects last season with two productive left handed bats, while provided depth at 1B and SS should no better solution materialize through the rest of the off-season.