The Rays traded OF Brandon Guyer to the Cleveland Indians at the trade deadline for two low level prospects that do not have a ton of pedigree. That’s not to say that they can’t be good players. It does mean that there is not a lot of people out there projecting these guys to be major league players.
Looking back on that trade, it makes me wonder how the Rays were willing to give up Guyer for a package of two guys that are long shots to even make it the the majors, let alone be significant contributors. He has been a 2 fWAR/season player, and that’s almost entirely from mashing lefties. A guy that can give you that kind of production in only ~350 PA/season should have a ton of value. And this wasn’t just one season of this guy. The Rays were going to have him for the next three years. There’s a very real chance he could put up 6 fWAR over the next 3 years. If he get’s $1M/$3M/$5M in those arbitration years, that’s like getting 6 WAR for the price of 1. That kind of surplus should have netted the Rays a much better package.
So why didn’t it? Are lefty mashing, average fielding OFers a dime-a-dozen? That’s been the reason we’ve been content with this return. We’ve told ourselves a Brandon Guyer is easy to come by, so he doesn’t have a ton of value. Is that true? Maybe RHH OFers that hit LHP better than RHP are common, but Brandon Guyer is nearly as good as it gets in that regard. Like JT Morgan mentioned here, Guyer’s been the 6th best lefty masher in the majors over the last two years. When I hear that, and also know he has 3 cheap years left of control, I wonder how the Rays were content with two long shot prospects. Do the Rays see something more than others in those guys?
It wouldn’t be the first time we scratched our heads at a trade and then were soon after impressed with the return. Think about trading David Price. The headliner in return was a young SS named Willy Adames. At the time very few people knew that name. Now he is the Rays #1 prospect and a potential impact player for the Rays going forward. Maybe the Rays surprise us with OF Nathan Lukes or RHP Jhonleider Salinas. They do have a knack for developing young pitchers. Maybe Salinas is the next diamond in the rough.
Even if that is true, why would the Rays settle for a project when there should have been a better package returned? A surplus of 5 WAR over the next 3 years
could have should have brought back something pretty significant.
I think his skill set is lacking in the current market. Maybe that was bad foresight by the front office. I wasn’t a fan of trading Guyer at the time as I wasn’t expecting much in return. The pro was Guyer had a particular set of skills that are useful in doing his one job, mashing left handed pitching. The negative side is that it’s a roster spot that gets exposed when it is forced into a larger role. When the whole outfield went down Guyer was forced into more playing time and he got 193 plate appearances this year against right handed pitching and was pretty damn awful. He hit .218/.302/.329 which was good for a 76 wRC+. He also took steps back in the field. He really is a guy that you want for his bat against LHP that since he’s an elite bat against them you can live with the defensive deficiencies.
I’m not surprised that the return for a player of limited use was seemingly so little. However he is only projected to earn $2MM in arbitration with one more turn. It’s possible they really like Salinas or Lukes and they thought this was a good time to sell Guyer. He’s a guy who makes a living getting beamed by baseballs. That’s not a great recipe to stay healthy and even when he is healthy he’s only useful about 30% of the time. In days of seven and sometimes eight man bullpens it’s becoming increasingly difficult to hide players with such limited functionality on your roster.
My bigger issue is Mikie Mahtook was his only real in house replacement. At the time Mahtook was putting up the polar opposite of his 2015 season. In 70 PA he had put up a 3 wRC+. Mahtook’s at bats were things that should have been hidden from children’s eyes to prevent Rays induced nightmares. There was no real fallback option. In 117 PA after Guyer’s departure Mahtook only put up a 66 wRC+.
I think there was failure in putting too much faith in Mahtook to rebound after a tough first half. I didn’t expect Guyer to bring back anything notable and his cost wasn’t going to be prohibitive to fill a role that didn’t have an answer for 2016. It shouldn’t have been difficult to see that the Rays were likely to enter the off-season with three outfielders on the roster and that would one need a platoon partner like Guyer. I hope they are able to find tenable solutions to find complementary outfielders that can push Dickerson and Souza for playing time. Guyer’s functional utility was worth more to the 2017 Rays than the value returned on the trade market.
Maybe the Rays felt his defensive decline was something that was going to become increasingly cumbersome moving forward as he’ll be 31 before the season begins. His propensity for being hit baseballs probably isn’t a formula for staying healthy. I don’t think they should have traded Guyer at the time of the trade, and I feel even more strongly they shouldn’t have today. He might have only brought value against left handed pitching, but he was really darn good at it.