Just four days after the conclusion of the World Series, the Tampa Bay Rays and Seattle Mariners completed the first significant trade of the offseason as the two teams on Thursday night (Nov. 5) swapped six-players.
The Rays acquired shortstop Brad Miller, first baseman/outfielder Logan Morrison and right-handed reliever Danny Farquhar in exchange for right-hander Nathan Karns, left-hander C.J. Riefenhauser and minor league outfielder Boog Powell.
Two of the Rays offseason priorities for President of Baseball Operations Matt Silverman were the middle infield and left-handed bats and the addition of both Miller and Morrison bring that to the table for the team. Morrison can play the outfield and first base and Miller’s versatility; primarily a shortstop can also play the outfield, third and second.
The addition of Miller all but assures that the Rays will not make any attempt to re-sign shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera who has opted for free agency, but at the same time doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a given that he’ll become the everyday shortstop.
Miller was the key piece in this deal and is the leading candidate to fill the shortstop position, although he is likely going to have competition from Tim Beckham and former Mariners teammate Nick Franklin. “The versatility that he has is a bonus and could come into play, but that wasn’t the focus on this,” Silverman said. “Our focus was on getting a middle infielder, especially one who can play shortstop at the major league level.”
“We’ve liked him [Miller] for a while. We’ve been impressed by his work at shortstop, and it’s always a plus to have a left-handed-hitting middle infielder,” Silverman said. “We’ll take him and the many other guys we have and head into spring training feeling good about our situation in the middle infield.”
Miller hit .258, with 11 home runs, 46 RBIs and 13 stolen bases in 144 games (125 starts) this past season. He made starts at shortstop (83), center field (20), left field (9), designated hitter (6), second base (5), third base (1) and right field (1). Miller was named the Mariners Unsung Hero by the Seattle Chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
Parting with Nathan Karns was somewhat of a surprise, but then again with the Rays depth at starting pitching made the trade more pliable. With Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi, Erasmo Ramirez and full seasons from Matt Moore and Drew Smyly returning from injuries, along with a possible mid-season return from Alex Cobb from Tommy John surgery Karns would have landed in the bullpen.
In his first full season in the majors and named the Outstanding Rookie by the Tampa Bay Chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, Karns went 7-5 with a 3.67 ERA while leading the American League rookies in starts with 26, innings pitched at 147 along with 145 strikeouts. In 19 of his starts, he allowed two runs or fewer, a Ray’s rookie record.
However, when Matt Moore rejoined the club on Sept.1 Karns lost his spot in the rotation and last pitched on Sept. 8 (in relief) before being shut down for the remainder of the season because of a forearm strain. Karns will immediately move into the Mariners rotation as their fourth starter.
The Rays struggled against right-handed pitching in 2015 and the addition of Morrison and Miller could give the Rays some power from the left side. Morrison hit .241 with 17 home runs and 45 RBIs in 315 at-bats against right-handers last season. Miller hit .266 with 11 home runs and 37 RBIs vs. right-handers in 2015.
Overall, Morrison played in a career-high 146 games batting .225 with 17 home runs, 54 RBIs. This was the first time since 2011 that he appeared in at least 100 games and his home run and RBI total were the most since that same year when he hit 23 homers and drove in 72 with the Marlins.
Although Morrison is primarily a first baseman (could be used in the outfield and as designated hitter), the deal doesn’t signify the end of the line for James Loney although from a financial standpoint there is always that possibility. Loney is expected to make $8.8 million in the final year of a 3-year deal ($9,666 million if incentives are met), while Morrison who is arbitration eligible could garner close to $4 million after making $2.752 in 2015.
Danny Farquhar made his big league debut during the 2011 season with the Toronto Blue Jays, pitching in three games, but he did not appear in another game in the majors until the 2013 season with the Mariners.
He has struggled to stay in the majors and after a good campaign in 2013, despite his record (0-3 with 16 saves) and a decent 2014 (3-1, 2.66 ERA, 1 SV in 66 appearances). However, 2015 was another story going 1-8 with a 5.12 ERA in 43 appearances over five stints to the majors during the season. Over his four-year big league career with the Blue Jays and the Mariners, he owns a 4-12 record, along with a 3.96 ERA, in 179 and 2/3 innings pitched over 158 relief outings.
The Rays bullpen has been one of their strongest areas in recent years and the addition of Farquhar should only make it better. He has the ability to get out both righties and lefties and if he’s able to get back to his past success, especially with the help of Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey, he could dominate as the middle innings man.
“We look at the whole body of work, Silverman said. We’ve liked Danny’s stuff for a couple of years now. Danny has several pitches. He’s shown the ability to get out both righties and lefties. He has a couple of years under his belt, which also means he has several years of control left.”
C.J. Riefenhauser made 17 appearances over four stints with the Rays in 2015, going 1-0 with a 5.52 ERA (14.2-IP, 9-ER). His best performance came after his September call-up, when he recorded a 2.16 ERA (8.1-IP, 2-ER) in 11 games. A 20th-round selection by the Rays in the 2010 June Draft, he made his major league debut in 2014.
Not that “Boog Powell” from the Baltimore Orioles of years ago, but Herschel Mack Powell IV. “Boog” earned the nickname from his parents, split the season between Double-A Montgomery and Triple-A Durham and ranked third in the Rays minor league system with a combined .295 batting avg. (131-for-444). The left-handed hitter batted .328/.408/.416 (78-for-238) for Montgomery, was named a Southern League midseason All-Star and earned a late-June promotion to Durham. He combined for three home runs, 40 RBI, 66 runs scored, 18 stolen bases and a .385 on-base pct. Powell was acquired from the Oakland Athletics in the Ben Zobrist trade on Jan. 10, 2015.