The Rays have traded former highly regarded catching prospect Ronaldo Hernandez to the Boston Red Sox for two relievers. Tampa Bay will include switch-hitting utility prospect Nick Sogard, who was drafted in 2019, and receive cash from Boston to balance the deal.
Hernandez was promoted to the Rays taxi squad during the 2020 season but was never trusted by the organization to take on catching duties at the major league level, despite clear opportunities the prior two seasons.
The key return for the Rays is 28-year old LHP Jeffrey Springs, who has three seasons of major league experience, primarily out of the bullpen. He features a fastball with around 10” of vertical movement, which makes him fit in with other recent Rays targets.
That fastball is paired with a 6-grade change up that should be his best pitch going forward, and a slider that is consistently thrown for strikes. True to the Rays way, Springs is also capable of shouldering a multi-inning role if needed.
The Rays will also receive 31-year old RHP Chris Mazza, who has 46.1 career innings with the Mets and Red Sox over the last two seasons. Boston used Mazza as a starting pitcher while the Mets saw him as a short reliever. The Rays will split the difference and will use him as a bulk guy in 2021.
While neither pitchers have eye-popping stats in the early go of their careers, there are things to admire with both.
Springs and Mazza both feature fastballs with movement, but the pitches are quite different. While the Springs fastball has 10” of vertical movement, Mazza’s main offering, a sinker, has 10” of armside horizontal run, although he does not seem to have found a way to harness that in groundballs yet.
Mazza also has a cutter and slider to go with his sinker, although he can surprise with a four-seam, and has shown a penchant for allowing very weak contact.
Both pitchers were recently designated for assignment by the Red Sox, but this was a procedural move to buy time for the deal to be completed. Today is the first day of the season that teams can utilize the 60-day Injured List, which was required for the Rays to clear room on the 40-man roster on their end of this trade.
By trading Hernandez off the depth chart, the Rays are clearing the way for internal catching option Blake Hunt, who was acquired in the Snell trade.