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Tampa Bay Rays are no worse off in 2018, in spite of trades

Projections have changed, but at the end of the day it’s still a winning team

Baltimore Orioles v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images

It has been a tumultuous week for Tampa Bay Rays fans. The Rays traded starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi and outfielder Steven Souza, Jr. and designated DH Corey Dickerson for assignment.

To counter these losses the Rays traded for Los Angeles Angels first baseman C.J. Cron, and signed free agent outfielder Carlos Gomez.

There was a large segment in uproar over the Rays conducting what appeared like a fire sale on Saturday night. It’s commonplace for local fans to get upset when players they like and know are moved when they expected them to be here. This is especially difficult when the players had already showed up to spring training with the team.

Jeff Sullivan wrote two pieces at Fangraphs about the moves. One analyzing the results of the Saturday night moves and one talking about trading in Souza for an older model.

The projection models don’t seem to think the Rays got significantly worse especially in relation to the public damnation of the organization for having a surprise fire sale.

Why?

FanGraph’s depth charts are powered by Steamer with adjustments for playing time. Before the Saturday night moves the Rays were sitting at 33.1 fWAR or just over 81 wins. As of this morning the Rays are sitting at 32.3 fWAR or just over 80 wins. A 0.8 win drop is next to nothing. The Rays did get worse, but they are still projected to win around 80-81 games.

Corey Dickerson was projected to take a step back and hit .258/.308/.460 and put up a 102 wRC+. That is an above average bat, but the Rays brought in Cron who is projected to hit .253/.308/.446 and put up a 101 wRC+. Just from an offensive perspective the move is almost a wash. 1 wRC+ over 600 plate appearances is just under one run.

Both players aren’t bringing defensive value. In a vacuum I’d rather have Dickerson’s ability to play outfield than Cron’s ability to play first base, but with the state of the roster at the time it’s a reasonable swap.

Jake Odorizzi is projected to follow up an injury riddled 2017 with a disappointing but serviceable 5.08 ERA and 5.08 FIP over 162.0 innings which would be good for 1.0 fWAR.

The bulk of the compensation here for the Rays is innings going to Brent Honeywell. Originally depth charts had Honeywell projected to throw 18.0 innings as a starter. It’s now up to 93.0 innings of 4.00 ERA and 4.07 FIP on his way to 1.4 fWAR. By redistributing the innings to other starters the Rays magically looked to get better here.

In reality it’s not a gain because a healthy Odorizzi isn’t stealing innings from Honeywell and Honeywell will be up for more than just a handful of starts. Depth charts still have 18.0 innings going to the combination of Jaime Schultz and Hunter Wood, so take that part with a grain of salt.

Depth charts have twelve pitchers getting innings as a starter this year, and all are projected to put up a lower ERA and FIP than Odorizzzi, so maybe it is addition by subtraction.

Steamer doesn’t believe in Steven Souza Jr.’s 2017 breakout. He is projected to put up a .244/.336/.451 line and 101 wRC+. Steamer also doesn’t think he’ll be healthy enough to get the plate appearances he did last year projecting him for 421 plate appearances and 1.1 fWAR. Depth charts has bumped up the plate appearances to 595 and on a rate basis increases his production to 1.6 fWAR.

If you are a Souza believer you will see this as a much bigger loss than the projections. If one of the pieces moved make the Rays significantly worse it’s the loss of Souza.

The Rays brought in Carlos Gomez to replace Souza’s right handed outfield bat. Gomez is projected to put up a .239/.311/.406 line and 94 wRC+. Because of defense and base running depth charts has him expected to put up 1.3 fWAR over 560 plate appearances. Just like Souza health is a concern with Gomez as Steamer only projects him to receive 408 plate appearances after not surpassed 500 plate appearances since 2014.

An offense that already was expected to struggle to score runs is expected to take a small step back after this series of moves, but the difference is much smaller than it looks based on name recognition.