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Trade, Sign, or Promote: McHugh, Bell, and Mead

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Welcome to a new offseason series where we make our own hotstove.

Philadelphia Phillies v Pittsburgh Pirates Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

Welcome to a new series called “Trade, sign, and promote”. This series will feature three players, one that the Rays should sign (after lockout) another that the front office should trade for, and the last one a player that the coaching staff should promote in the near future.

Sign

Let’s kick this off with a former Ray, Collin McHugh, who was one of the most valuable bullpen pieces in 2021 with a 1.8 WAR. McHugh posted an outstanding 1.55 ERA over 64 innings. On top of that he limited baserunners posting a 0.94 WHIP while ranking in the 87th percentile with a 30% K rate. Limiting contact and baserunners was the recipe for success this past season. The opposition had a 2.5% barrel rate against him; that is within the best 2% of the league and 87th percentile in avg exit velo.

The real value proposition of McHugh’s game is his slider, which is one of the best in the game. His slider has 6.1 inches of horizontal movement vs average. The slider had a 30.8 whiff% with a .178 xBA; in other words, it was an untouchable pitch for the opposition. To finish it off McHugh had a 2.26 xERA which was one of the best in the league, that’s just a simple example of why it’s worth it to make an effort to resign him. In my eyes, McHugh should get a very similar contract to what Brooks Raley got, with a slightly higher payout. I can see McHugh signing a 2-year deal worth $12MM.

Trade

The Rays are in need of a big power bat that can rake against lefties. There just happens to be a switch hitter who hits extremely well against lefties who could become available if the price was right. That’s Josh Bell, a big first baseman who can work as a DH for the Rays. Bell started the season cold, but nevertheless, he finished hot with a very acceptable stat line of .261/.347/.476 with a 118 wRC+. Those numbers look even better if you look at only the latter half of the season when his bat heated up. In the 2nd half he slashed .277/.381/.506 with 15 bombs. Also, in the second half of the season, Bell walked more than he struck out. Bell had a 14.3BB% and a 13.6K%. He has a rare combination of outstanding plate discipline and tons of power; that’s exactly the type of player the Rays need on their lineup.

One of Josh Bell’s best tools is that he hits lefties extremely well, he hit .245/.368/.470 with a wRC+ of 125. Also hitting against lefties Bell has one of the best BB/K ratios with 1.20 BB/K. On the defensive side Bell doesn’t have the best numbers (-1 DRS and UZR -2.2) however it won’t be such a big problem. The switch hitter can serve most of his time as a DH, while getting some reps at first base; that could give more opportunities to play Yandy Diaz at 3B.

What will take to acquire Bell? The Nationals are in a rebuilding period, and Bell is a free agent in 2023, so the Nationals could consider a good offer. The Nationals will take any kind of prospect help, and the Rays have plenty of them. Ian Seymour and Alika Williams would be good options as trade candidates to get Bell.

Promote

Few had a more impressive minor league season than Curtis Mead. He was one of the best in the Rays’ farm system. Mead had a breakout season, as he posted a .321/.378/.533 across 3 different levels. He started the season hot in Low-A with a 163 wRC+ in Charleston; he cooled off a little bit in High-A, however, it was enough to put a very respectable 117 wRC+. Curtis Mead has a great combination of contact skills and power; he posted 55 XBH in 104 games in 2021 while leading the minors in doubles with 35. On the defensive side, the AFL All-Star has the versatility to play all over the infield. In 2021 he played 18 games at 1B, and 72 in 3B. However, he can also play 2B as he did with the Phillies in 2019 when he played 7 games in rookie ball.

As we know the Rays need a bat that can crush lefties, Mead is more than capable to do so. Across every level, Mead hit .320/.386/.495 in 114 plate appearances against LHP with an impressive .881 OPS. Mead will probably begin the season in Triple-A with an invitation to spring training. It would not be at all surprising to see him make his major league debut before the All-Star break.

Comment down below if these players would be good additions to the team. If you had the power to sign, trade, and promote three players which ones would you choose?