The Tampa Bay Rays are finalizing their acquisition of Marlins SS Adeiny Hechavarria, a top flight defensive shortstop that the Marlins put on the trade block in an attempt to clear salary. What a world we live in where the Rays were the answer to that call.
Here’s what the acquisition of a 2-win glove means for the Rays in 2017, at a moment where they are 2.5 games back in the division, and 1 game back from leading the Wild Card race.
The Rays have a new Shortstop
Tim Beckham was thrust into the shortstop role in 2017 after recovery from achilles surgery was slowed for SS Matt Duffy by a calcium deposit in his heel.
While he performed above expectations this season, unfortunately, Beckham has been slowed by his own injuries over the last few weeks, with a tweaked knee and a hit-by-pitch wrist.
In his stead, the Rays have been starting utility rookie Daniel Robertson, as well as depth veteran Tyler Featherston and the recently released Michael Martinez to make up the gap.
With Duffy still on the road to recovery, Hechavarria appears to be just what the doctor ordered for a Rays team ailing up this middle this season (2B Brad Miller and CF Kevin Kiermaier are likewise on the disabled list). Enter Adeiny.
From 2015-2016, Hechavarria ranked as the fourth best defensive shortstop in baseball by Defensive Runs Saved and UZR:
His numbers are good enough to be seventh best as well, if you include 2017, which has been mostly lost to injury.
Hechavarria doesn’t hit well, which is a kind way to put it, but there’s enough pop in his below average plate presence to make this an interesting gamble overall, as Jeff Sullivan wrote yesterday afternoon:
Baseball Savant also now hosts an expected wOBA statistic, based on Statcast inputs. In 2015, Hechavarria topped his expected wOBA by 26 points, which was one of the bigger gaps in the majors. Then, in 2016, Hechavarria undershot his expected wOBA by 30 points, which was one of the bigger gaps in the majors in the other direction. According to Statcast, 2016 Hechavarria was better. According to hard-hit rate, 2016 Hechavarria was better. It’s his actual numbers that went in the toilet. That’s neat, even if we don’t know quite what to do with it.
It seems like Hechavarria’s results are misleading. It seems like he went from overachieving to underachieving, and the Rays might figure the bat has just enough life.
TL;DR - Hechavarria could be something average at the plate after all! All it would take is a .302 wOBA to be a typical SS in 2017, which is rather close to his 2015 numbers, and not a far cry to what he’s done in 67 plate appearances earlier this season (287 wOBA).
But offensive contribution is not the point. The Rays needed help at shortstop, and the Rays are flexing prospect depth — AND paying some salary — to fix that, costing approx. $8-9 million to cover this and next year’s salary.
This is not your typical Rays moment.
The Rays are all-in on 2017
Make no mistake, the Rays are making moves like it’s the trade deadline, but jumping the market by making moves now before the pressure kicks in.
With the addition of Hechavarria, and the recent acquisition of Trevor Plouffe, the Rays are showing that they are willing to add major pieces during the season as they look to remain competitive in the division race. The Rays are also showing a willingness to take on additional salary in order to add these players as well, something we rarely see them do.
Better yet, the Rays are going about doing this smartly, as they’ve not dealt a single big name prospect from their system. OF Braxton Lee has plus-plus defense, and RHP Ethan Clark is an enormous pitcher (physically), but they are fringe guys from the lower depths of the system. The Rays were shrewd to get a deal done without hurting the farm. This way, the Rays are still playing for this year and the years to come as they keep their pipeline churning.
The Rays also seemed to be closing in on a reliever from the Marlins, and that did not materialize in this deal, and perhaps that required a more significant prospect, ranging from the likes of Hunter Wood to Diego Castillo, but the groundwork has been laid for a deal that still has plenty of time to be accomplished.
Tampa Bay knows they need better pitching, and by going after Hechavarria, the Rays improve their pitching by bolstering their defensive numbers up the middle, which will surely help to improve things overall.
Hechavarria missed the majority of the season to an oblique strain, but having just completed his rehab, looks poised to jump fully into 2017. If Hechavarria was fully healthy, maybe he costs more than two prospects you’ve never heard about before this trade, but then he might not have been in the Rays price range either.
Pitching is at a premium, and the Rays are not eager to deal their prospects. Improving the other side of the ball still results in run prevention, though, and is the outside the box thinking that may prove beneficial in the long run.
Adam Sanford contributed to this article.