This morning, a completely reasonable headline was announced. The Oakland Athletics have acquired IF Jurickson Profar from the Texas Rangers. Then, for the second week in a row, the Tampa Bay Rays found themselves as a late announcement to a three-way deal.
The Rays received RHP Emilio Pagan, RHP Rollie Lacy, and the 38th pick in the 2019 MLB draft from the Athletics while sending out LHP Brock Burke, LHP Kyle Bird, and RHP Yoel Espinal to the Rangers.
What the Rangers and Athletics are doing in this trade is crystal clear. The Rangers aren’t going to be good in the next few years so need to trade their current wins for future. The Athletics need to add present wins.
The Rays portion is a bit surprising. At first glance the trade looks odd from the standpoint of helping out another American League contender improve in 2019 while the Rays are trying to compete, and it sends another org their minor league pitcher of the year (Burke).
So, what’s up?
Emilio Pagan and the win-now mentality
The Rays are trading future wins for more future wins while getting an interesting reliever for the present.
Pagan isn’t exciting, but he fits some things the Rays like out of their relievers. As Jason Hanselman writes at The Process Report, Pagan has destroyed right handed batters and has regularly been asked to get six plus outs. The overall numbers aren’t all that impressive, but he has held right handed bats to a .192/.237/.336 line and .247 wOBA while striking out 27.4% of batters and only walking 4.4% of batters faced in his MLB career.
The downside is left handed batters have lit Pagan up and as an extreme fly ball pitcher he will go as far as his homerun rate allows him to go.
Pagan makes sense as a replacement for Sergio Romo. He shouldn’t be getting the ninth inning role, but with teams like the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Houston Astros, and Los Angeles Angels being primarily stacked with right handed batters at the top of their lineups being an opener could make some sense for the Rays against the teams they are most likely looking to compete with.
The Cleveland Indians ability to stack switch hitters (Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, and Carlos Santana) are the only team at the top of the AL that looks to be a bad matchup.
Brock Burke, Kyle Bird, and Yoel Espinal
Here's what I've got on the prospects in this deal— Eric Longenhagen (@longenhagen) December 21, 2018
Burke- 91-95 t96, huge extension, four pitch mix, mostly change/slider, #4/5 starter type
Bird- Big spin guy. Low 90s, slider & curve 2600-2800rpm, relief
Espinal- mid-90s, sinking split thing in upper-80s, mid-80s slider
Burke is the most exciting prospect the Rays moved in this trade. Burke can hit mid to upper 90s and can be a good backend starter not unlike the group the Rays have used behind an opener. He has reasonable upside and Baseball America announced that he was going to be ranked #14th in their Rays top 30.
In a somewhat surprising move the Rays added Bird to the 40 man to protect from the Rule 5 draft this winter. Bird isn’t much different than many of the players that find themselves in roster limbo over the winter. If the Rays wanted to trade him they wouldn’t likely be looking at anything more than a minor PTBNL or cash considerations.
Espinal was re-signed as a MiLB free agent this winter after being selected in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft in 2015. The Rangers reportedly considered taking him in the Rule 5 draft this year, but this way they don’t have to keep him on the MLB roster.
Competitive Balance Pick
The Rays received the Athletics competitive balance pick currently the number 38th pick in the 2019 MLB draft. In this range the Rays drafted Shane McClanahan (#31 overall), Nick Schnell (#32), Tyler Frank (#56), and Tanner Dodson (#71) in last year’s draft.
For what it’s worth, in my current Rays prospect list I have McClanahn (#15), Schnell (#18), and Dodson (#19) just ahead of Burke (#20). Frank comes just behind at #23.
The Rays are getting what is likely to be a very similar value to Burke. With Burke having some success at AA the pick is going to be much higher variance and push back the wins a couple years.
If the Rays weren’t facing a roster crunch in the next year this isn’t the kind of deal I would expect the Rays to make.
The Rays had to clear some 40 man space, and in this move they clear one spot to announce the Charlie Morton deal. There will be need for more space this winter as the Rays aren’t done with their MLB roster; there are some players you could see dropped or included in a bigger trade.
Burke was in an awkward spot on the roster, as the Rays depth was stacked when including the pitchers who went down with Tommy John surgery last year. Brent Honeywell, Anthony Banda, and Jose De Leon will, hopefully, be first in line when injuries or under performance occur in the Rays “rotation” and this put Burke far back in line for a near term role.
To start the year the Rays currently have Blake Snell, Tyler Glasnow, and Morton penciled into their rotation. Yonny Chirinos, Ryan Yarbrough, Jalen Beeks, Wilmer Font, and Jake Faria will fight for the last two rotation/bulk guy slots. At least one will find themselves in the bullpen as a long man and the other will likely see time in Durham to bring up as needed for the sixth starter.
It’s hard to see where Burke forces his way through this mess before being pushed over by Brendan McKay, Jose Mujica, and Resly Linares in 2020. So while Burke has value this is probably the best time to move him.
The Rays got value in clearing 40 man space without negatively affecting the 2019 or likely 2020 major league rosters. For pushing their value into the future they also got an intriguing reliever.
If Pagan is the best reliever the the Rays bring in this winter it’ll be more disappointing, but there are reasons to like the things can do well if you can limit the things he can’t. Overall, I’m indifferent on the trade.