For most of the off-season, trade rumors were abounding that the Tampa Bay Rays would trade from their pitching depth to obtain additional offense. Speculation was that reliever Jake McGee starters Jake Odorizzi, Alex Cobb, Drew Smyly and Matt Moore were all made available for the right deal.
On Thursday (Jan. 28) the right deal came along as Jake McGee and minor league pitching prospect German Marquez were traded to the Colorado Rockies for outfielder Corey Dickerson and minor league third baseman Kevin Padlo. In addition to the trade, the Rays also officially announced the signing of a one-year, $4.75 million deal with free agent 1B/outfielder Steve Pearce.
Despite being limited to just 39 games in 2015 due to two significant injuries that landed him on the disabled list twice, McGee posted a 2.41 ERA with a .197 opposing batting average while striking out 48 and walking just eight batters.
Career wise he was a solid left-handed reliever for the Rays owning a 2.77 ERA with an ERA under 2.50 in three of the past four seasons. His departure will leave a glaring gap at the back-end of the bullpen as there is no clear cut option for that role as yet. Xavier Cedeno, Alex Colome, Enny Romero, Danny Farquhar and Steve Geltz must step up to the plate so-to-speak and prove that they’re ready for a new role as the stop-gap for closer Brad Boxberger.
“The departure of Jake leaves a big hole, and it’s one that will be hard to fill,” Ray’s President of Operations Matt Silverman said. “He’s one of the best in baseball and he’s a great guy in the clubhouse. We’ll certainly miss his presence and dependability.”
Despite the rumors throughout the off-season, McGee who avoided arbitration by settling on a $4.8 million salary for the 2016 was a bit surprised that he got traded so late in the winter and was figuring to begin the season with the Rays.
“I kind of expected [to get traded] a little more early in the offseason,” McGee said. “Arbitration went well. A few days ago I heard a little bit that a trade might happen, but I didn’t know if it was just another rumor. Today everything begin to happen. I was getting calls and talking to my agent. I didn’t hear it was official until 7 o’clock.”
Corey Dickerson gives the Rays the left-handed power bat that they have been seeking and as well is not yet arbitration eligible and comes with four years of club control remaining. He won’t be eligible for arbitration until 2017 and he won’t be eligible to become a free agent until 2020.
In 2014, he hit .312 with 24 homers and 76 RBIs in 131 games but 2015 was cut short due to plantar fasciitis in his left foot and later a broken rib, limiting him to just 65 games in which he hit .304 with 10 homers and 31 RBIs.
A career .299 BA with 39 home runs and 124 RBIs in just 925 games over three seasons, Dickerson has crushed right-handed pitching (.313 BA) while he has suffered against lefties (.246). On a note that should be pointed out, his numbers at Coors Field have far exceeded what he’s done on the road.
“In terms of Coors, it’s a great place to hit and it makes it that much harder to hit on the road,” Silverman said. We’ve done our homework and we believe in the skill set that Corey has and that it will translate to our ballpark and will really play to any ballpark in the league. A hitter like him is someone that is oftentimes hard to come by, and we felt like it was too much to pass up in this case.”
The 64,000 question now is what the Rays will do with the surplus of outfielders. Dickerson has played some centerfield but has been used primarily in left… where Desmond Jennings, Brandon Guyer, and Steve Pearce have their primary residence. Centerfield is locked with Kevin Kiermaier and in right field are Steven Souza Jr., Mikie Mahtook and Logan Morrison.
The outfield is crowded which leads to one thing, additional trades are likely to occur between now and the opening of the season as Silverman said the Rays still plan to continue conversations with other teams. “It’s a crowded lineup we have right now,” Silverman said. “As we’ve seen in the past, these things tend to work themselves out.”
Speculative rumors have the Rays making a very strong bid for free agent shortstop Ian Desmond, but losing a first-round pick in the 2016 Draft (13th overall) which is a huge obstacle and a salary that is likely way out of the Rays range will prevent the team from such a signing.
Of course that could all change if Silverman can deal James Loney ($9.7 million), Desmond Jennings ($3.3 million) and Matt Moore ($5 million) and possibly a throw-in such as Rene Rivera ($1.7 million).
Rounding out the trade, along with McGee the Rays gave up pitching prospect German Marquez. Marquez went 7-13 with a 3.56 ERA (139-IP, 55-ER) and led the Stone Crabs in starts (23), innings pitched and strikeouts (104). He is 14-27 with a 3.88 ERA over four minor league seasons. He was signed by the Rays as a free agent in 2011 out of Venezuela.
Joining Dickerson from the Rockies is third baseman Kevin Padlo who split his first full professional season between Class-A Asheville and Short-A Boise. He earned Northwest League mid-season and postseason All-Star honors, ranking among league leaders in batting average (.294, fifth), home runs (9, tied for third), RBI (46, second), stolen bases (33, second), hits (75, tied for third), doubles (22, first), extra-base hits (33, first), on-base percentage (.404, third) and slugging percentage (.502, first). Following the season, he was ranked by Baseball America as the No. 10 prospect in the Northwest League. He was selected by the Rockies in the fifth round of the 2014 June Draft.