‘Twas the first day of camp and, well…a boat-load of stuff went down. The Tampa Bay Rays formally announced the acquisitions of Rich Hill and Oliver Drake, worked out a pair of trades with Boston and Miami, and announced the new flexible season ticket model.
We discussed the acquisitions of Hill and Collin McHugh last week; McHugh’s deal is still a few days away from being finalized. In a Zoom call with the media, Rays GM Erik Neander said they brought Hill in to provide length (in addition to leadership) and will look at him as a starter … although he’s willing to pitch behind an opener as well.
The left-hander boasts a 3.06 ERA over 13 career postseason appearances (12 starts) and helped lead the 2017 and 2018 Los Angeles Dodgers to the World Series.
Drake, 34, will earn $775,0000 plus a roster bonus of $325,000 if he hangs onto a spot for fifty days. He returns to Tampa Bay after an injury-plagued 2020 season. The right-handed LOOGY was limited to 11 appearances due to right bicep tendinitis and went 0-2 with a 5.73 ERA and two saves. He was tagged for eight runs (seven earned) with just seven punchouts. The tendinitis clearly impacted Drake, as his fastball velocity dropped more than two miles per hour in his limited amount of time on the mound.
Even so, Drake is 5-4 with a 3.63 ERA across parts of the last two seasons, and he limited lefties to a .156 average (19-for-122) with just two home runs. As Steve Adams (MLB Trade Rumors) noted, Drake induced ground balls at a 52.3% clip in 2019 and ranked in the 83rd percentile or better in whiff percentage, strikeout percentage, expected ERA, expected batting average against, expected slugging percentage against, and expected wOBA.
Per Neil Solondz (Rays Radio), “Drake is expected to be healthy near the midpoint of the 2021 season, so Tampa Bay could place him on the 60-day IL if they need to. In addition, Tampa Bay also could move Yonny Chirinos to the 60-day IL as he recovers from Tommy John surgery. Within the week at least one spot is expected to be needed when the signing of RHP Collin McHugh is formally announced.”
The Rays and Red Sox also completed a four-player trade in which they received a pair of pitchers, Chris Mazza and Jeffrey Springs in exchange for minor league catcher Ronaldo Hernandez and Nick Sogard, the Rays’ 12th-round pick in 2019.
Mazza, 31, has spent time in the Majors with the Mets and Red Sox over the past two seasons but hasn’t matched his strong Triple-A results. He posted a 5.05 ERA and 4.96 SIERA with a subpar 2:1 K/BB, as well as a less than stellar 35.4% ground ball rate. Still, he carries a 3.72 ERA in 92 Triple-A innings and a 3.24 ERA across 283-2/3 Double-A frames.
Overall, Mazza has a career 3.21 ERA as a farm-hand and is above average at inducing weak contact — he ranked in the 83rd percentile in limiting hard contact last season.
Neander said that Mazza can provide length with his sinker/cutter/slider combination.
It’s crossfire lower slot delivery, a lot of east and west from the right side, and just a different look. But one that we think combined with how we might be able to match him up … Just think we might be able to find a higher gear.— Erik Neander
While Springs yielded too many home runs last year, he led big leagues with a 39.8% whiff rate on his sinker and ranked second with a 52.8% whiff rate on his changeup.
The Rays believe they can coax more out of both players by tinkering with their pitch mixes and/or altering their approach with the existing arsenals of Mazza and Springs.
They’re talents that to start we have more optimism than their 2021 ERAs would suggest. Players that we think are going to be additive to our group and help us win.— Erik Neander
Meanwhile, Tampa Bay sent right-hander John Curtiss to Miami in exchange for minor league first baseman Evan Edwards.
The 23-year-old Edwards was a fourth-round draft pick out of North Carolina State in 2019. He only has a half-season of professional experience due to a lack of minor league games, yet he made the best that time slashing .281 BA/.357 OBP/.442 SLG/.799 OPS with 49 RBI, nine home runs, 15 doubles, and a triple in 308 plate appearances.
Neander said they are excited about Edwards’ skill-set and how he fits into the group, as he gives an organization flush with talented players up the middle a solid corner prospect.
Finally, the Rays announced their new, Season Membership model in anticipation of fans returning to the Trop for the 2021 regular season. The Season Membership model will allow fans to choose from six membership levels, each with their own associated discount and seating location. According to the website, “you can redeem your membership credit for as many games as you want to attend, one at a time or all at once, when you are ready. Use the credit on your account to buy any combination of tickets, up to six per game.”
The initial announcement did not include all the details, however, the membership price levels start at $500 and run up to $20,000. They are tied to a seating area and other benefits, such as discounts on parking and access to presales.
Per the press release:
“We look forward to welcoming fans back inside Tropicana Field this year,” said Rays Vice President of Ticket Sales and Service Jeff Tanzer. “A Season Membership provides a great way to join the Rays family while receiving tremendous flexibility and value, along with priority access to tickets and incredible benefits throughout the year.”
The new program has been created in part to ensure socially-distant seating, as traditional fixed season ticket locations will not be available for 2021. Season Memberships offer flexible alternatives and priority access to tickets when fans can return to the stands. Current Season Ticket Holders will receive an email in the coming weeks with instructions on how to select their new Season Membership package for the 2021 season.
The Rays continue to work with Major League Baseball and local public health authorities to determine when and how to safely welcome fans back to Tropicana Field. A health and safety protocol which includes a reduced capacity, socially-distanced seating and mandatory face masks except while actively eating or drinking in your seat, will be announced prior to the start of the season. In the event that games are canceled or postponed due to COVID-19, Season Members with tickets to affected games will receive credit to their account for future ticket purchases or as a refund to the original method of payment.— Tampa Bay Rays