By Matt Mirro
It seems the off season gets rolling earlier and earlier each and every year. It’s not even cold on a daily basis in my neck of the woods and already we have a six player trade. On Thursday the Tampa Bay Rays and Settle Mariners agreed to a deal that will send Logan Morrison, Danny Farquar and Brad Miller to Tampa for Nathan Karns, C.J. Riefenhauser and minor league outfielder Boog Powell (No, not that book Powell). Miller, a shortstop, is clearly the Rays’ biggest prize, the 25-year old batted .258 with 11 home runs and 46 RBI last year. It probably doesn’t bode well for his former teammate, Nick Franklin, and his career as Tampa’s starting shortstop.
Morrison is set to serve off the bench for the Rays, spelling the injury prone James Loney at first base while also seeing time at both corner outfield positions. In 2015, his age 27 season, he batted just .225 but hit 17 home runs and drove in 54 RBI. Not a bad throw in for a team who could use the depth he provides. It will be his third team in what will be his seventh big league season. Farquar came to Seattle along with D.J. Mitchell from the New York Yankees in the deal that put Ichiro Suzuki in pinstripes back in 2012. In three years in the Emerald City the 28-year old right hander posted a 4-12 record (155 games) along with 18 saves, a 3.85 ERA and 208 strikeouts.
The trade is relatively even but I’d argue the Mariners got better value in the long run. While Riefenhauser isn’t an elite reliever by any definition (6.30 ERA in 24 career games) it never hurts to stockpile young bullpen arms and the 25-year old lefty provides depth if nothing else. The 27-year old Karns is serviceable and in 27 games (26 starts) for the Rays in 2015 he pitched to the tune of a 3.67 ERA (4.09 FIP) with 145 strikeouts. But Karns could see an improvement by moving to pitcher friendly Safeco Field as he allowed 19 home runs last year while playing in hitter friendly Tropicana for the last two years.
Now, the young outfielder Boog Powell (Still not that one) may be the real prize here. The 22-year old was sent to the Rays from the Oakland Athletics in the deal that sent Ben Zobrist to the A’s. While he has not developed great power he’s certainly expiated a natural hitting ability as he batted .295 with a .385 OBP and 40 RBI in 2015. At times he’s shown great speed as evident by his 18 stolen bases last year but definitely needs more polishing in the all around base stealing department as he was caught 14 times as well. Time will tell what kind of player he turns into but I see him rounding out into a Brett Gardner type of player. Worst case scenario he stands to be a Drew Stubbs archetype.
This deal could be seen as a p0recursur to upcoming moves for both clubs, the Mariners in particular. New general manager Jerry Dipoto is looking to pick up where his predecessor left and propel the Mariners into the playoffs. It seems the team will likely utilize Ketel Marte as the everyday shortstop going forward but could definitely be in the market for a first baseman now that Morrison is gone and other options are limited. Chris Davis, anyone? Karns could easily serve in the starting rotation but that is entirely dependent on what else they are able to maneuver as far as starting pitching goes.
The Rays may be looking for a bit of magic here. Morrison and Farquar have shown flashes of really great stuff in the past but maybe they are able to finally piece it together with the Rays. However, I must applaud their addition of Miller. Nick Franklin lost his position to Miller in Seattle before being the main prize in the David Price trade but never did enough to grab the role in Tampa. Now, they have Miller who can hopefully bring stability to the shortstop position and provide some extra clout to the lineup.