Catching Up With The Rays: Trade, ‘Pen Help, Rankings, Tobacco Ban

Rays Reportedly Reach Agreement With Tolleson:

In an attempt to bolster their bullpen the Tampa Bay Rays have reportedly (Marc Topkin Tampa Bay Times) reached an agreement with right handed reliever Shawn Tolleson on a 1-year MLB deal.

Tolleson, 29, had a rough year in 2016 appearing in 37 games for the Texas Rangers posting a 2-2 mark with a 7.58 ERA. He was removed as the teams closer, suffered a back injury, was sent to the minors, and eventually taken off the Ranger’s 40-man roster.

Both Tolleson and the Rays hope he can rebound to his form displayed in 2014-2015. In those two seasons he appeared in 137 games and posted a 2.44 ERA over 144 innings of work. In 2015 he saved 35 games and struck out over a batter an inning (76K/72.1-IP).

The Rays most recent bullpen reclamation project that they had success with is Xavier Cedeno. Prior to that the team had a string of fortunate signings including Kyle Farnsworth, Joel Peralta, Joaquin Benoit, and Fernando Rodney. Outside of Cedeno, the recent group of Ronald Belisario, Heath Bell, Grant Balfour, and Kevin Jepsen have not fared well.

Mahtook Traded To Tigers:

Tampa Bay Rays

The Rays need to create room on their 40-man roster for when the team makes the signings of Colby Rasmus and Shawn Tolleson official. To accomplish this they traded outfielder Mikie Mahtook to the Detroit Tigers for a player to be named later or cash.

Mahtook, 27, was selected out of Louisiana State University with the 31st pick of the first round in 2011. He was one of two first round picks the Rays received in compensation after the Yankees signed former Rays’ closer Rafael Soriano.

Mahtook spent parts of the last two seasons with the Rays posting a .231/.275/.410 with 12 homers spanning 311 plate appearances.

ESPN’s Keith Law Ranks Rays Farm System:

ESPN’s Keith Law (Subscription Required) ranks the Tampa Bay Rays farm system the 19th in MLB.  He notes the injury to Brent Honeywell (20 starts), the loss of Taylor Guerrieri‘s fastball, and the loss of command by Jacob Faria as three limiting factors. He is also down on 2015 first round pick Garrett Whitley saying he had a disastrous season (.266/.356/.379) in Hudson Valley (Low-A Short Season).

On a more positive not, Law suggests that the Montgomery Biscuits (Rays’ Double-A affiliate) have possibly six major league players in their lineup including three regulars.

Rays Outfield Ranked Number One:

Tampa Bay Rays

ESPN’s Jeff Sullivan (ESPN Insider Subscription Required) ranked the best defensive outfields in baseball.  He utilizes UZR/150 and defensive runs saved (DRS) to compare outfields. Checking in at number one Kevin Kiermaier, Colby Rasmus, Steven Souza, and Maxell Smith (when he plays) were the Tampa Bay Rays.  He believes that the Rays may be able to add four or five wins with their outfield defense.

MLB Pipeline Includes Rays In Top Prospect By Position:

Tampa Bay Rays

MLB.com has released its top 10 prospects for several positions including right handed and left handed pitching, catching, and first base..  Checking in on the list thus far are Brent Honeywell and Casey Gillaspie.

Honeywell, drafted by the Rays in the second round in 2014, was ranked the seventh best right handed pitcher.

“Honeywell has a bevy of weapons at his disposal, with the ability to both throw strikes and generate whiffs with five distinct pitches. He throws his fastball in the low- to mid-90s with late sinking action and backs it with a host of secondary offerings, including his trademark screwball as well as a plus changeup. His feel for commanding his above-average cutter down in the zone gives him yet another out pitch, while his curveball represents a quality change-of-pace offering.” – MLB.com

Gillaspie, the Rays first round pick in 2014, ranks fifth on the first base rankings.

“A big, physical switch-hitter, Gillaspie’s power is mostly strength-driven but a plus tool nonetheless. He shows it from both sides but does a majority of his damage from the left, the source of 14 of his home runs in 2016. His bat speed is only above average and there is some swing-and-miss to his game, but the overall swing is consistent, and he’s long demonstrated an advanced feel for the zone with strong on-base skills. A well-below-average runner, Gillaspie is smooth enough around the bag to be a league-average defender at first base.” – MLB.com

MLB Draft Order Set:

With the signings of Mark Trumbo back with the Orioles and Jose Bautista back with the Blue Jays, MLB has set the 2017 Draft Order. The Rays will have four selections in the first 80 picks. They hold the 4th, 31st (competitive balance), 40th, and 79th pick.

Smokeless Tobacco Banned At Tropicana Field:

The St. Pete City Council passed an ordinance banning the use of smokeless tobacco from organized sporting events, including Tropicana Field. The ban will be in place for players, manager, coaches, players, and fans. Tropicana Field will be among 13 MLB venues where the use of smokeless tobacco has been banned.

 

I am a fan of all sports but am most passionate about baseball. From the fanatical to analytical, nothing about the game escapes me. Being born and raised in Northeast Ohio I'm very familiar with the heartache and pain that sports can bring and hope that I bring some understanding of the other side to my coverage. I will focus mostly on baseball but also cover the Tampa Bay Lightning, one of the most electric franchises in all of sports. Always willing to converse about any sport and have only one rule and that is be respectful at all times.