The Rays have suffered an incredible amount of injuries to their pitchers. This staff started out as one of the league’s deepest, and there is potential help waiting to be called up from Port Charlotte, but it’s fair to suspect that the Rays are in the pitching market, both for single-inning relievers and for guys who can perform in bulk.
This is Part 4 of our pitcher trade candidate deep dive, you can check out Part 1 featuring Kansas City, Milwaukee(!), and Pittsburgh, Part 2 for Texas and Baltimore, Part 3 for Miami and San Francisco in Part 3, and Seattle and Arizona in Part 4.
The criteria for a pitcher to make these lists was entirely based on being plausibly tradeable (subjectively meaning not a well-established star with years of control) and having interesting or unusual stuff. I looked for:
- Four-seam fastballs with exceptional rise, especially when paired with decent breaking pitches.
- Hard sliders or cutters with good vertical drop for their speed.
- Curves with good vertical drop for their speed.
- Sinkers with exceptional sink or exceptional run.
- Changeups or splitters with exceptional drop.
Let’s get to it!
The defending champion Nationals are in a weird place where they likely thought they had a contending team once again, and in a normal season would not be hitting the panic button at the fact that they’re down five games in their division with 29 games in the books. But this is not a normal season, and five games is a lot when you’ve got 31 left to play and you’re looking up at everyone.
FanGraphs has them at a 23% chance to make the playoffs.
Tanner Rainey - the shoe fits, but the shoe is probably not for sale
Rainey will be a popular name in trade discussions, although I think he’s pretty unlikely to actually be moved. He should be a part of the back-end bullpen plans for the Nationals in 2021 and beyond (and they probably consider themselves contenders.
Still, I have to note him because he’s almost the prototypical Rays four-seam/hard slider type.
The fastball has good rise at 96 mph, and the slider has good downward break to it at 87 mph. Squint and this is Emilio Pagan.
Sean Doolittle - the original prototype
There’s a lot of risk here, as Doolittle pitched his worse season ever in 2019, and then got off to a bad start in 2020 before going on the IL. He’s been activated, and he pitched one game with his fastball hovering around 90 mph.
I don’t think that’s going to work, and with Doolittle a free agent in 2021, he’s a borderline DFA candidate right now.
Which is weird to say, and brings my interest back around, because this is Sean Frickin’ Doolittle we’re talking about. When I looked for successful MLB pitchers for Poche to model himself on, Doolittle is the guy. All fastball, all rise, all at the top of the zone, with impeccable command. Also 95 mph. He was The Man.
Now it looks like he’s 90, not 95, and that command isn’t so impeccable. Can he get healthy in time for the playoffs, at age 33? No idea, that’s a medical question. But if he does, could be a small acquisition with a big payoff.
Wander Suero - because you can never have too many Wanders
The first thing that’s interesting about Wander Suero is that he throws no traditional fastball. His primary pitch, which he throws over 80% of the time, is a 90 mph cutter. It’s not just the type of hard, fastball-replacing cutter that’s basically a fastball without run. Suero’s actually has gloveside break to it.
The next thing that’s interesting is that, on the page at least, Suero’s seldom-thrown changeup and curve look like decent major league pitches. He’s a weird, good reliever already as is, and I wonder if there’s some upside to be had in there with some small sequencing tweaks.
Javy Guerra - the cheap veteran with a fastball
I mean, I’m not excited about 32 year old Javy Guerra and his 92 mph rising fastball, either. But my stated goal in this series is to find all the fastballs like Guerra’s and tell you about them. This is a 92 mph fastball with a lot of rise to it.
The secondary stuff, which he rarely throws, is not great. Over the course of his ten year major league career, Guerra has contributed 1.5 wins above replacement. I checked to see if, like Edgar Garcia, maybe no one had ever told him to throw his fastball up high. But no, he knows to do that already (although last year he seemed strangely intent on throwing his four-seam down and away from lefties). I don’t think the Rays will have new tricks for him.
Still, Guerra is a decently warm body who should be acquirable.
It is far from a sure thing that Colorado is selling. Their playoff odds stand at 40% right now. Also they don’t have much. And yet here we are. Here are two pitchers that popped up for me:
Daniel Bard - the comeback story
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Daniel Bard’s comeback story is so good that he’s broken the databases. Texas Leaguers has no pictures of his stuff and Brooks Baseball still thinks he’s still a Met. He’s not. Eight years after completely losing his ability to throw strikes and crashing out of the league, Bard is back at the age of 35 and he’s dealing again.
Per the Brooks numbers, his fastball is very straight, but at 97 mph, who cares. His changeup, which he barely throws, has a fabulous diving, running shape at 90 mph. His 84 mph slider is fine.
Bard isn’t a free agent until 2024, but also, remember, he’s already 35. I don’t know how to evaluate this value, and where there’s uncertainty in evaluations there’s the possibility of a trade.
Wade Davis - Why doesn’t this work?
I know, I know, this would never happen. Colorado would have to eat a ton of salary. And also Davis has been just truly awful (both last year and at the start of this year), and now he’s hurt. But this stuff. It’s still there.
The helium fastball is down to 91 mph, and the cutter is at 89 mph. The curve is hard at 82 mph.
I’m going to be honest, I never could understand why Davis so completely flopped as a starter. I suspect that if one were to peel him out of that think Rockie Mountain air, there’s life in his career yet.