The Tampa Bay Rays acquired slider happy Matt Wisler from the Giants on Friday.

The Tampa Bay Rays completed a trade on Friday, acquiring right-hander Matt Wisler from the San Francisco Giants in exchange for minor league southpaw Michael Plassmeyer. Tampa Bay designated catcher Deivy Grullon for assignment in order to open a spot on the 40-man roster for Wisler. The Giants designated Wisler for assignment earlier in the week.

The 28-year-old Wisler was regarded as one of baseball’s best pitching prospects, both with San Diego and Atlanta. He, however, never found his footing with either team. He did enjoy a breakout campaign in the Twins’ bullpen during last summer’s truncated season, though, when he pitched to a 1.07 ERA and a 3.35 FIP with a 32.7% K% across 25-1/3 innings. Wisler walked far too many hitters last season (13.1%), which was tempered by a 2.5 K/BB. his 2020 success allowed him to ink a one-year, $1.15-million contract with San Francisco over the winter.

Things didn’t go as planned with the Giants. Up to now, Wisler has been tagged with a 6.05 ERA across 19-1/3 frames in San Francisco, although it would appear that some bad luck was in play as the right-hander boasts a 3.63 xERA and a 3.55 xFIP. Wisler still maintains a huge uptick in strikeouts while also refining his control to the tune of a 7.3% BB%. It should also be noted that Tampa Bay has made command improvements with a few of their recently acquired young pitchers, and Wisler fits the mold of a hurler with “stuff,” yet iffy control, who could benefit from the extra help with improving command.

A great deal of Wisler’s success with the Twins stemmed from an almost comical use of his slider, which he threw 83.5% of the time in 2020. In so doing, his strikeouts per nine jumped from 7.2 in 2018 to an 11 K/9 in 2019, and then a 12.43 K/9 a season later. It currently sits at 12.6. Wisler has thrown his slider with even greater frequency this season, leaning on it 90.3% of the time, which could account for the marginal increase in strikeouts per nine.

Last season, Wisler attributed his success to his coaches, teammates, and playing for a winning team, and it’s easy to see how he is set up for success in Tampa Bay given the team’s elite defense.

It’s a good fit. The big thing I’ve looked at is I’ve had a lot of help this year, with the defense behind me … having guys like Trevor May coming in after me and picking up my runs this year. Those have been a huge influence. I looked at it the other day and I could just as easily have a 5.00 (ERA) this year as what I’m doing. A lot of credit to the guys behind me doing what they’re doing. And I guess this is the first time I’ve really been on a World Series-contending team. Instead of pitching to statistics on a bad team, all you’re trying to do is go out there and win the game. It frees you up a little bit, instead of worrying about your numbers and giving up runs, you’re just trying to make sure you win that game.

— Matt Wisler

Wisler is an intriguing pitcher … the type of hurler that seems to thrive in Tampa Bay’s bullpen. He’s also under team control through the 2022 season, so he could be an affordable fixture in the ‘pen for the next couple of years.

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