On January 28, 2016 the Tampa Bay Rays completed a trade to bring in OF/DH Corey Dickerson and minor league 3B Kevin Padlo from the Colorado Rockies for left handed relief pitcher Jake McGee and minor league right handed starting pitcher German Marquez.
Corey Dickerson and Jake McGee were both coming off injury shortened 2015 campaigns. Dickerson had four years of team control remaining and McGee was entering his third year of arbitration projected to make around $5 million in 2016. McGee had one more year of arbitration eligibility remaining as a super 2.
The Rays wanted a big bat to install as their designated hitter, and Dickerson looked like he could be their man. During his two plus years with the Rockies he had hit .313/.358/.577 and put up a 139 wRC+ versus right handed pitchers. His defense was exposed in the massive outfield of Coors Field, most notably a throwing arm weakened by a high school football injury. But Dickerson could hit and hit for power, and in the AL a player with his profile can be valuable as a Designated Hitter.
3B Kevin Padlo was coming off a very productive year for the Boise Hawks. He his .294/.404/.502 and put up a 159 wRC+ in 308 plate appearances. He struggled when he was initially was assigned to the full season Asheville Tourists. In his 18 year old season he showed power and patience.
Jake McGee was one of the most dominant left handed relief pitchers during his time with the Rays. Between his September call-up and the end of 2015 McGee put up a 2.77 ERA and 2.58 FIP in 259.2 innings. Despite throwing his fastball 95%+ he was one of the best relievers in all the majors. He struck out 30.8% of batters while walking only 6.9%. In 2015 McGee was limited to 37.1 innings due to injury, but was as dominant as ever.
German Marquez was coming off a very successful 2015 season with Port Charlotte as a 20 year old. He put up a 3.56 ERA and 3.14 FIP. He was placed on the 40 man roster, but was behind Blake Snell, Jacob Faria, and Taylor Guerrieri as prospects taking up roster spots. He was a very good prospect. He was a level below the others who had already been promoted to AA or AAA.
In sum, the Rays got their bat, and one who had more years of team control than the reliever they traded. The Rockies got the better prospect, as Marquez seemed likely to have MLB success whereas Padlo had higher variance and was further away. It also helped clear a 40 man spot for the Rays.
The results: 2016
2016 didn’t play out as either team had hoped. Neither team was especially competitive, and neither key player was as effective as hoped. Dickerson brought the power that was expected, but saw his batting average plummet. McGee suffered through injuries and was only able to throw 45.2 innings. His ERA spiked to 4.73 as did his FIP to 5.29., mostly due to two disastrous outings in which he allowed four and five runs. His strikeout rate was below 20%. German Marquez did make his MLB debut.
The results: 2017
The script has flipped in 2017. Both teams are currently in possession in playoff spots and this trade has played a big role. Dickerson has been every bit the hitter the Rays wanted with a .312/.355/.548 line and putting up a 139 wRC+. He’s even shown over the past year that he isn’t a butcher in the field and actually has provided defensive value. McGee is enjoying a bounce back season of his own. He has a 2.70 ERA and 2.55 FIP in 36.2 innings. His strikeout rate is back up to 30.3% and he dropped his walk rate by almost 2%. German Marquez has looked very good in 14 starts. Marquez has a 4.36 ERA (86 ERA-) and 3.97 FIP (85 FIP-).
Sometimes, everyone wins
We baseball fans like our trades to have clear winners and losers. By fWAR the Rays have picked up 4.3 fWAR from Corey Dickerson. The Rockies have received 0.8 fWAR from Jake McGee and 1.8 fWAR from German Marquez for a total of 2.4 fWAR. Relievers are generally undervalued compared to the market by fWAR. Kevin Padlo has progressed through the Rays. He was performing well in Port Charlotte until he went down with a broken hamate bone.
Even if the Rays look like they won so far by fWAR I think this is very much a win/win trade for both sides. The Rays got what they wanted in a power hitting middle of the order bat and were able to spend the approximately $8MM in savings elsewhere. The Rockies have a dominant bullpen arm this year and a pitcher that is transitioning very well to the majors. The Rockies traded off a left hitting outfielder which they have plenty of even if Dickerson has been the most productive at the plate this year.
And of course the full story of the trade has still not been written. Perhaps three or four years from now this will be known as the Marquez-Padlo trade.
Meanwhile, both sides can be happy with what they received.