Rays Review: 2018 Trade Deadline

(AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

Rays Confuse Industry By Buying & Selling At Deadline

The 2018 Trade Deadline confused the MLB pundits as the Rays moved pieces off their roster as expected but also added to the roster in a trade with the St. Louis Cardinals. The most memorable part of the 2018 deadline deals for the Rays was the franchise altering trade sending Chris Archer to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Heading into an off-day on July 30th the 2018 Rays had a record of 53-53. They were a distant 20.5 games behind the AL East leading Boston Red Sox and 9.5-games out of a wild card spot. The team had began the transition to younger players from their minor league system. The 2018 Rays opened the season with a number of veterans on the roster, some with expiring contracts, and the Rays were expected to be sellers at the deadline.

What makes a deadline deal? Are they the deals that are completed in the final 24 hours? Well, in my opinion those are included but I’d prefer to look 7-10 out from the trade deadline for a larger scope of what the front office was trying to accomplish. These trades accomplish different objectives. They could be made to fill a need on the roster short term, to provide depth for the playoff push, to clear a 40-man roster spot, or to open up playing time for someone. The 2018 trade deadline had a mix of all of these elements plus adding proven major league talent for the immediate future.

Remarkably, after the trade deadline the Rays finished the 2018 season with the best record in the American League (37-19) finishing the year with 90 wins.

Matt Andriese Traded To Arizona

On July 25th, Tampa Bay traded Matt Andriese to the Arizona Diamondbacks for minor league catcher Michael Perez and minor league pitcher Brian Shaffer.

At the time of the deal, Andriese had appeared in 27 games (4 starts) and had worked to a 3-4 mark with a 4.07 ERA. His 2018 finish in Arizona didn’t go the way the Diamondbacks had hoped as he posted an ERA of 9.00 (19ER/19IP) in his 14 games. He remained with Arizona in 2019 and was much more effective in 54 games posting a 5-5 mark with a 4.74 ERA. He spent the 2020 season with the Los Angeles Angels (2-4, 4.50 ERA) and is currently a member of the Boston Red Sox. With Boston he has appeared in 26 games and is 2-3 with a 6.03 ERA.

Michael Perez came to Tampa Bay and made his big league debut with them on July 26th. He finished the year batting .284/.304/.392 spanning 80 plate appearances. He served as the backup catcher to either Mike Zunino or Travis d’Arnaud when called upon over the 2019-2020 seasons. At the end of the 2020 season he was designated for assignment and claimed off waivers by the Pittsburgh Pirates. With the Pirates in 2021 he’s batting .156/.231/.352 spanning 134 plate appearances.

Brian Shaffer is currently a member of the Rays Double-A South Montgomery Biscuits where he’s appeared in 12 games, all in relief, and is 4-1 with a 5.63 ERA (15ER/24IP).

Nate Eovaldi Traded To Red Sox

On July 25th, Tampa Bay and Boston made a somewhat rare intra-division deal that sent Nathan Eovaldi from the Rays to the Red Sox in exchange for left-handed starter Jalen Beeks.

Nathan Eovaldi was due to hit the free agent market at the end of the 2018 season. He had finally put an elbow injury that required season before opening day behind him and was pitching effectively for Tampa Bay. At the time of the trade, he had made 10 starts and gone 3-4 with a 4.26 ERA (27ER/57IP). He appeared in 12 games (11 starts) with Boston after the deal and posted a 3-3 mark with a 3.33 ERA. It was during the postseason that the deal made the most impact for the Red Sox. In helping Boston to the World Series Championship, Eovaldi was made six postseason appearances for the World Champion Red Sox going 2-1 with a 1.61 ERA (4ER/22.1IP).

That work provided Boston with the belief in him long term inking him to a 4-year $67.5MM dollar deal following the 2018 season. He was limited to 67.2-innings in 2019 due to injury (2-1, 5.99 ERA) and made 9 starts during the Covid-19 shortened season (4-2, 3.72 ERA). He’s been a lynchpin of the 2021 Red Sox rotation going 9-5 with a 3.49 ERA and was named to the All-Star team.

Jalen Beeks appeared in 12 games with Tampa Bay in 2018 and went 5-0 with a 4.47 ERA. He appeared in 33 games for Tampa Bay in 2019 and was 6-3 with a 4.31 ERA. Unfortunately, in 2020 he tore the ligament in his elbow after 12 games (1-1, 3.26 ERA) requiring Tommy John surgery. He will miss the 2021 season but should be back and 100-percent healthy come opening of spring training 2022.

Jonny Venters Traded To Braves

On July 26th the Tampa Bay Rays traded Jonny Venters to the Atlanta Braves in exchange for international bonus pool money. Venters was one of the best stories in baseball in 2018. Once a dominant reliever with the Atlanta Braves appearing in 267 games in relief from 2010-2012, finishing eighth in Rookie of the Year balloting in 2010, and making the All-Star team in 2011.

Prior to the 2018 season, he had not pitched in a big league game since the 2012 NL Wild Card game with Atlanta. He underwent Tommy John surgeries in 2005, 2013, and 2014. In 2016, he underwent an additional, “half-Tommy John” by Dr. Neal El Attrache.

He continued to fight and attempt to comeback finally returning to the big leagues with the Rays on April 25th against the Baltimore Orioles.

In 22 games out the 2018 Rays bullpen, Venters worked to a 1-1 mark with a 3.85 ERA. He continued to pitch effectively down the stretch back home in Atlanta going 4-1 with a 3.54 ERA spanning 12 games and 8-innings of work. In opened the 2019 season with Atlanta and appeared in nine games and allowed nine earned runs in just 4.2-innings of work before being released. He signed with the Washington Nationals and appeared in three games (0-1, 5.40 ERA).

Wilson Ramos Traded To Phillies

On July 31st the Rays traded Wilson Ramos to the Philadelphia Phillies for cash considerations or a player to be named later. Ramos had signed Ramos to a 2-year/$12.5MM deal which included another possible $4.5MM in incentives in December of 2016. At the time Ramos was rehabbing from knee surgery and would miss the opening of the 2017 season. He made his Rays debut on June 24, 2017 and finished the season appearing in 64 games (224 plate appearances) and hit .260/.290/.447 with 11 homers.

His bat came to life in 2018 as he was batting .297/.346/.488 slash line with 14 homers spanning 315 plate appearances through July 14th. Unfortunately for Tampa Bay, Ramos injured his hamstring trying to beat out an infield hit against the Twins which all but crushed his trade value. He was on the injured list when he was dealt to the Phillies and didn’t return to the field until August 15th. He finished the year appearing in 33 games with the Phillies and hit .337 (30-for-89).

Following the 2018 season Ramos cashed in signing a 2-year deal with the New York Mets guaranteeing him $19MM. Prior to the 2021 season he signed a $2MM deal with the Detroit Tigers but was released after hitting .200 (24-for-120) in 35 games. He signed with the Cleveland Indians and is currently playing for their Triple-A affiliate Columbus team.

Rays Acquire Tommy Pham:

A lot of established MLB players were leaving the Rays at the trade deadline of 2018, but that didn’t stop the team from filling one of their biggest holes (right handed outfielder) on both the MLB squad as well as in the upper levels of their minor league system.

On July 31st Tampa Bay acquired Tommy Pham and international bonus slot money from the St. Louis Cardinals. The Rays sent the Cardinals minor league pitchers Genesis Cabrera and Roel Ramirez and minor league outfielder Justin Williams.

Pham had a breakout season in 2017 batting .306/.411/.520 with 23 homers in 530 plate appearances. At the time of the trade he was hitting just .248/.331/.399 with 14 homers spanning 396 plate appearances. The Rays felt he was more a victim of bad luck than of poor performance as the under the hood numbers (exit velocity, launch angle, etc.) were in line with his 2017 performance.

Pham showed just how correct the Rays are by slashing an impressive .343/.448/.622 over the final 39 games of the 2018 season. While not as dominant in 2019, he did slash an impressive .273/.369/.450 with 21 homers and 25 stolen bases.

Tampa Bay traded him and minor league prospect Jake Cronenworth to the San Diego Padres following the 2019 season in exchange for Hunter Renfroe and minor leaguers Esteben Quiroz and Xavier Edwards.

Pham missed most of the 2020 season due to a wrist injury which held him to just 31 games where he struggled batting .211 (23-for-109). He’s rebounded for San Diego in 2021 and is batting .260/.373/.419 with 11 homers and 13 stolen bases spanning 378 plate appearances.

After splitting time between the minors and St. Louis in 2019-2020, Genesis Cabrera is a fixture in the Cardinals bullpen appearing in 48 games in 2021. He has pitched to a 2-3 mark with a 3.52 ERA while striking out 10.4 batter per nine innings. He struggles with command as evidenced by a high walk rate of 5.7 batters per nine innings.

Roel Ramirez had a memorable MLB debut in 2020. He came in relief of Dakota Hudson against the Chicago White Sox and struck out the first batter he faced. It got worse from there as the next four White Sox all launched homers. He appeared in one game for the Cardinals in 2021 before being designated for assignment and claimed by the New York Mets on July 21st.

Justin Williams had one at-bat for the Rays in 2018, a pinch hit appearance on July 21st against the Miami Marlins which resulted in grounding into a double play. The one time highly thought of Williams has never been able to reach what he was projected with the Cardinals. He missed all but 53 minor league games in 2019 after injuring his fingers and hand punching a television set during the offseason following 2018. In parts of three seasons with the Cardinals he’s batting just .160 (20-for-1250.

Rays Complete Biggest Blockbuster In Franchise History

To say that the Rays trade of Chris Archer to the Pittsburgh Pirates on July 31st in exchange for Austin Meadows, Tyler Glasnow, and Shane Baz was one of the best deals in the history of the franchise may be an understatement.

In Chris Archer the Pirates were getting a pitcher that had three more years of affordable club control (3yrs/$27.5MM). The Pirates believed that his 2018 performance (3-5, 4.31 ERA) was somewhat a function of nagging injuries that had bothered him all year. They also had won 13 of their last 16 games to suddenly be within just 3.5 games out of a wild card spot on July 30th. The city of Pittsburgh was still reeling from the trades of Gerrit Cole and Andrew McCutchen in cost saving measures, did the front office feel the pressure to get a “name” player back into the organization? That theory has been floated out there as to why the Pirates were willing to mortgage so much of the future.

In Austin Meadows the Rays received a potent bat who at the time of the trade was in Triple-A but in 49 games with the Pirates had hit a very respectable .292/.327/.468 with 5 homers in 165 plate appearances.

Tyler Glasnow had struggled mightily as a starter in 2017 with Pittsburgh pitching to a 2-7 mark with a 7.29 ERA (53ER/62IP) but was just 23 years old at the time. The decision was made to move him to the bullpen, not in high leverage either, but simply in a swingman type of role. He was 1-2 with a 4.34 ERA (27ER/56IP) at the time of the trade.

All that was known about the player to be named later at the time of the trade was from industry sources who proclaimed that it was someone that was a known name, but was not on a top 100 prospect list. When it was announced that right handed pitcher Shane Baz was the player to be named later many pundits couldn’t believe the Rays were able to get such a package for Archer. Many wondered if the Pirates were more interested in acquiring the team friendly contract and paid little attention to the production that they were getting. This isn’t a knock on Chris Archer in any way, it’s more a statement of the haul the Pirates valued him at.

Baz was the Pirates first round pick in 2017 (#12 overall). He’s currently pitching for Team USA in the Olympics and has advanced to Triple-A. He’s spent the 2021 season between the Rays Double-A affiliate and Triple-A affiliate posting a 3-4 mark with a 2.26 ERA and an impressive 49 strikeouts to 2 walks. It would not be a surprise to see Baz make his MLB debut with the Rays at some point after the Olympics.

Since the deal Austin Meadows has made the All-Star team in 2019 batting .291/.364/.558 with 33 home runs in 2019. He was unable to repeat the dominance in 2020 as his season was staggered with injury starting with testing positive for Covid-19 at the on-set of spring training part two. He got off to a somewhat slow start in 2021 but is on track to have another outstanding season. Going into the end of July he’s batting .243/.330/.480 with 20 homers and 76 RBI.

Tyler Glasnow burst onto the scene with the Rays who had inserted him back into the rotation. He finished the 2018 season in the Rays rotation posting a 1-5 mark with a 4.20 ERA. He got off to a great start in 2019 before an injury to his forearm put him on the injured list. He returned to finish the season strong and overall pitched to a 6-1 mark with a 1.78 ERA (12ER/60.2IP) spanning 12 starts. He was impressive in 11 starts for Tampa Bay in 2020 posting a 5-1 mark with a 4.08 ERA while striking out 13.5 batters per nine and walking 3.5 batters per nine. Once again, he got off to an extremely solid start in 2021 before hitting the IL with an injury to the forearm. He’s looking to return in September, and for the Rays to make a deep run in the postseason they are probably going to need his booming right arm in some fashion. He was 5-2 with a 2.66 ERA at the time of the injury.