November 9, 2015 update below in Noteworthiness.
On November 6, the Tampa Bay Rays agreed to a six player trade with the Seattle Mariners, which sent RHP Nathan Karns, LHP reliever C.J. Riefenhauser, and minor league outfielder Boog Powell to Seattle. In return, Tampa Bay received INF/OF Brad Miller, 1B/DH Logan Morrison, and RHP reliever Danny Farquhar.
The move was inevitable, although the timing was unexpected. After all, the Rays fielded offers for Karns at the trade deadline, and the righty seemed destined for the bullpen in 2016 were he to stay in Tampa Bay. In the deal, the team netted the presumed starting short stop and added some much needed left handed bats, as well as a reclamation project of a reliever.
The deal might have deferred the potential for injury, as Karns was shut down in early September with forearm tightness, and Riefenhauser saw a drop in his velocity upon his return from Triple-A this season. The lefty also battled inflammation in his throwing shoulder.
The question begs: how might Miller, Morrison, and Farquhar be utilized next season?
Called a Ben Zobrist-like player, Miller filled the utility role for Seattle in 2015, though he logged most of his time at shortstop. Miller has solid all-around tools and saw success at the plate this season past, slashing .258 BA/.329 OBP/.402 SLG/.731 OPS/.144 ISO/105 wRC+ (including a 125 wRC+ against right handed pitching).
Dave Cameron (FanGraphs) assessed the trade, and ranked Miller 8th among players who have played at least 25% of their games at shortstop over the last three seasons:
As a big leaguer, he has a 99 wRC+, which ranks 8th among players who have played at least 25% of their games at shortstop over the last three years. If you exclude Hanley Ramirez and Yunel Escobar — neither of whom played an inning at the position last year, and won’t play it in 2016 either — then you’re left with only Troy Tulowitzki, Jhonny Peralta, Jed Lowrie, Brandon Crawford, and Ian Desmond as shortstops who have better offensive numbers since Miller’s debut.
Given that he’s also a good baserunner and headed into the years where most players peak, there just aren’t a lot of guys out there who can play shortstop and provide this level of offense.
Defensively, Miller has shown some real slick fielding work, and a 1.9 UZR (roughly average) for his career. He is a player with strong range, yet he is a bit error prone as exemplified by his 14 errors in 750-1/3 innings at short last season — 39 over the past three seasons. Miller posted a career -9 defensive runs saved (-4 DRS last season), although Asdrubal Cabrera posted a -7 DRS in 2015 to put things into perspective. Tampa Bay does an excellent job with positioning its defenders, which should mitigate the risk of throwing Miller out there on a day-in-and-day-out basis.
Miller has more than two years of service time, and will remain under team control until 2019.
Morrison struggled offensively over a career-high 146 games in 2015, slashing .225 BA/.302 OBP/.383 SLG/.685 OPS. However, as Danny Russell (DRaysBay) noted, he collected a respectable 112 wRC+ vs right handed pitching in 2015. In Morrison, the Rays add a left handed-hitting first baseman with some power.
#Rays Silverman says obviously too early to commit but talks about Miller as middle infielder, Morrison for his bat (thus DH).
— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) November 6, 2015
Matt Silverman, President of Baseball Operations for the Rays, praised Morrison for his bat which points to his use as the DH in place of John Jaso. Yet Morrison also provides important depth at first should the Rays move the $8M contract of James Loney this off-season. Entering his final year of arbitration, Morrison is projected to make about $4M.
Farquhar logged 51 innings for the Mariners in 2015. He utilizes an upper 80s cutter and a mid-90s fastball, which grades as a plus pitch. Under team control until 2019, the righty provides Tampa Bay depth in high leverage pitching situations, assuming he can put it back together under the tutelage of Jim Hickey. Farquhar saw his numbers drop in 2015, collecting a 5.12 ERA (from 2.66 in 2014) and a 4.60 FIP (2.86 in 2014).
Rays manager Kevin Cash discusses his team’s trade with the Mariners and his hopes for Logan Morrison, Brad Miller and Danny Farquhar:
I’m not going to overgeneralize things by naming a winner and/or a loser — any label as such fails to be seen at the moment. What I will say, however, is that Tampa Bay was able to fill a few long-term needs with this trade, and each player could make a big impact on the Rays from the get-go. That’s a plus/plus in my book.
— Monday sounded the beginning of the 2015 GM Meetings in Boca Raton, Florida. And while they are not as active as December’s Winter Meetings, the groundwork for many trades, acquisitions, and free-agent signings is expected to be laid at the GM Meetings.
Even though Tampa Bay jump-started the offseason with the Miller/Morrison/Farquhar trade, Matt Silverman conceded that his work is far from done. Silverman told the Tampa Bay Times that the organization “still (has) some areas to address,” even though the focus has narrowed. The Rays President of Baseball Operations noted that he sees the team’s current “depth” as a means of addressing those needs.
A trade of James Loney could be pursued now that Logan Morrison is in the fold, not to mention there appears to be an opening in playing time for Richie Shaffer. A move of this sort would go far in creating financial and roster flexibility to add a hitter.
— Other roster moves: LHP Jeff Beliveau and INF Jake Elmore were outrighted off the 40-man roster, making them free agents. RHP Alex Cobb, LHP Grayson Garvin, and RHP Burch Smith were reinstated from the 60-day DL, thus filling out the 40-man roster. Per Topkin, further changes will be made as the Rays add prospects in advance of the Nov. 20 deadline for Rule 5 draft eligibility.
— The team did not make qualifying offers (one year, $15.8 million) to any of their other free agents (Asdrubal Cabrera, DH/outfielder John Jaso, and outfielder/DH Grady Sizemore) by the deadline Friday. They are now free to sign with other teams.
— Tampa Bay is not expected to be active on the free-agent market early.