ST. PETERSBURG, FL–The Rays 2013-14 offseason moves are in full swing. Tampa Bay has acquired right-handed relief pitcher Heath Bell and cash from the Arizona Diamondbacks, as well as catcher Ryan Hanigan from the Cincinnati Reds as part of a three-team trade. In exchange the Rays will send minor-league pitcher Justin Choate and a player to be named later to Arizona.
The Reds will get pitcher David Holmberg from Arizona, while the the Diamondbacks will receive financial relief from Heath Bell’s contract. The Rays will have to pay around $5 million of Bell’s $9 million salary this upcoming season, with a vesting option in 2015. The rest will be paid for by the Diamondbacks and the Miami Marlins whom Bell was with in 2012.
Heath Bell has over nine years of MLB experience as a relief pitcher. He comes in with a 3.39 ERA, 168 saves, 625 strikeouts, and a 1.25 WHIP over his career. His most notable work came while pitching for the San Diego Padres, where he shined out of the bullpen in 2007 as a setup pitcher for Trevor Hoffman with 102 strikeouts. From 2009-2011 as San Diego’s closer, Bell accumulated 132 saves, including 41 straight save opportunities within that span, the sixth longest streak in MLB history.
Ryan Hanigan will enter his seventh season in the majors having spent all previous six with the Cincinnati Reds. He comes in as a career .262/.359/.343 hitter, and has the fifth best on-base percentage among MLB catchers since 2009. This can be attributed to the fact that he has walked more than he has struck out in each of the last six seasons. Hanigan led the MLB in caught stealing percentage the last 2 seasons (.485 in 2012, .455 in 2013), having thrown out over 40% of runners over his career. He will receive a three-year, $10.75 million extension with Tampa Bay, with a $3.75 million option in 2017.
This could mean Rays catcher Jose Lobaton and free agent closer Fernando Rodney could be looking for new homes in 2014. Lobaton is still under contract with Tampa Bay, however the recent two-year, $4.5 million re-signing of catcher Jose Molina could be an indicator that the team will back both Molina and Hanigan for the next few years. Lobaton came through with multiple clutch hits in 2013, including a walk-off home run in Game 3 of the ALDS against the Red Sox. However his defense, more specifically his caught-stealing percentage, has been very low the last two seasons.
As for Fernando Rodney, it seems very unlikely he will return to Tampa Bay next year. Rodney made $2.5 million last season; the fact that The Rays are willing to pay Bell $5 million this season shows they are very confident in his ability to compete and win the closer role.
What do you think of the trade? Did the Rays upgrade or downgrade at catcher and closer? What other moves do you think the Rays should consider? Let us know on Facebook, Twitter (@987TheFan), or over the airwaves on 98.7 The Fan.