On Friday, the Tampa Bay Rays opted to part way with veteran left-hander Rich Hill, who they sent to the New York Mets for veteran right-handed reliever Tommy Hunter (currently on the 60-Day Injured List) and minor league catcher/infielder Matt Dyer. The trade is pending medical reviews of the players involved.
The swap comes on the heels of last night’s trade for Nelson Cruz.
Hill, 41, has pitched to a 3.87 ERA through 95.1 innings so far in 2021, yet he’s struggled rather considerably since mid-June, pitching to a 5.22 ERA, a 1.43 WHIP, and a 2.1 HR/9 over his last 29.1 innings of work. Additionally, in his past seven starts, Hill’s surrendered 20 runs on 34 hits (including seven home runs) and 16 walks, while his 28 strikeouts (19.3%) represent a pretty pronounced decline. Also on the decline are his spin rate and velocity, and the Rays could believe that there isn’t much left in the tank for the veteran southpaw when you consider his age, injury history, and that he’s thrown close to 60 more innings this season than last.
In the short term, the deal opens up a more stable spot for Luis Patiño, who once again joined Ryan Yarbrough, Shane McClanahan, Josh Fleming, and Michael Wacha in the rotation on Thursday. However, with a week until deadline day, this deal likely was executed with an even bigger move in mind; it all but guarantees that Erik Neander and Co. will go after a starting pitcher. After all, Tampa Bay is in “win now” mode, and it is doubtful that they would rely on a rotation composed of three rookies, a guy coming back from a partial UCL tear, a right-hander that has appeared in two games since 2019, someone who’s had an inconsistent 2021 campaign, and Yarbrough who is the current ace of the staff.
Hunter’s inclusion in the swap appears to be a financial counterweight to Hill. Hunter, who pitched to a 2.61 ERA and a 3.07 FIP under the big top in 2017, has been out since May with a back strain, and it’s uncertain whether he will return in 2021. Given that his $2.25-million salary is a bit lighter than Hill’s $2.5-million salary, the Rays are saving roughly $99-thousand by agreeing to take on his contract in return.
As Steve Adams (MLB Trade Rumors) writes, Dyer is a rather interesting addition for the Rays.
The Rays do come away with an interesting prospect in the 23-year-old Dyer, whom the Mets selected in the fourth round of the shortened 2020 draft. Dyer has spent the season with the Mets’ Class-A affiliate and shown some concerning swing-and-miss tendencies (30.9 percent strikeout rate), but he’s also walked at a high clip and shown good power. He’s hitting .194/.329/.452 with seven homers, seven doubles, a pair of triples and six steals, and Dyer has spent time at catcher (65 innings), at first base (80 innings), at third base (66 innings) and in right field (18 innings) so far this season.
Baseball America’s scouting report on Dyer prior to last year’s draft suggested that he had a plus arm, average sped and the potential to be an average or better defender at as many as five positions, including catcher, which sounds like a player tailor-made for the Rays organization. This year’s strikeout concerns underscore that he’s far from a sure thing to hit enough to realize that potential, but he’s a somewhat interesting name to add to the system in return for a struggling pitcher on an expiring contract.— Steve Adams
And with this, we bid farewell to Rich “Dick Mountain” Hill who was fantastic and entertaining when he was on, and infuriatingly frustrating when he wasn’t.