Heath Bell adds a veteran late inning reliever to the Rays' bullpen
The Tampa Bay Rays have been relatively quiet, as usual, this offseason.
Some teams make big splashes in the offseason, signing expensive high-profile players, while others make ripples. The big splashes garner a lot of attention, are seen and heard from further distances and are projected to make a significant impact immediately.
Small ripples make less noise and attract a smaller national audience. Instead of a single large splash, multiple ripples need to be put together with the intent of building a sustained winner.
For small-market teams on a tight budget, like the Rays, ripples are the way business is conducted.
Grades for the offseason moves are based on the value received for the costs of the transaction. Average players who add depth who are signed to an average contract would be a good move compared to subpar performers signed to a long-term deal.
Here are the grades for the Rays' offseason moves so far.
All statistics and salary numbers courtesy of baseball-reference.com unless otherwise noted.
Jose Molina will return to the Rays for 2014.
Jose Molina signed a two-year, $4.5 million deal with the Rays.
In his 12 seasons prior to joining the Rays, Molina played an average of 56 games per season. In his last two seasons with the Rays, he has averaged 101 games per season. The acquisition of Ryan Hanigan, which will be discussed later, should help the 38-year-old Molina return to a backup status.
Molina still has a lot he can contribute to the Rays' efforts defensively. He caught 23 baserunners stealing in 2013, good for fifth-best in the American League.
He also offers the experience of catching in the major leagues for 14 seasons. Molina can continue to serve as a mentor for the young pitchers on the roster as well as catcher Jose Lobaton.
Transaction Grade: C
Molina is certainly not a must-have player on the Rays roster. With that said, he does not cost too much money and provides depth at a traditional position of weakness for the franchise.
David Price expects to be traded this offseason.
The biggest splash the Rays have made this offseason is the transaction that did not happen.
At least, has not happened yet.
The team is fielding offers for its ace David Price but have not made a deal yet. Price expects to be traded this offseason in a similar fashion to the way the team dealt James Shields last year and Matt Garza previously.
In the Shields deal, Tampa Bay received AL Rookie of the Year Wil Myers as the centerpiece of the transaction with the Kansas City Royals. They will have to find a trade partner willing to give up a top prospect for this splash to ever happen.
There is still plenty of time left this offseason to see which team the 2012 Cy Young winner will pitch for next season.
Transaction Grade: A
The lack of a deal for David Price is a very good thing for the Rays. Their best chances at winning in 2013 require him to be on the mound.
The Tampa Bay Rays acquired relief pitcher Heath Bell from the Arizona Diamondbacks and catcher Ryan Hanigan from the Cincinnati Reds in a three-team trade. In exchange, the Rays sent minor league pitcher Justin Choate and a player to be named later to the Diamondbacks.
The acquisition of Bell could answer the question of who will take over the ninth-inning pitching duties in place of Fernando Rodney.
From 2009-2011, Bell was one of the top closers in the game. He recorded an average of 44 saves per season in that span. His last two seasons have been below that standard, averaging only 17 saves per season.
The Rays have had success with previous closer reclamation projects. Rafael Soriano, Kyle Farnsworth and Fernando Rodney all saw success in the ninth inning for the Rays following previous seasons of disappointment. Rodney saw the most success in 2012, setting the MLB record for lowest ERA in a season at 0.60.
Hanigan provides the Rays with a very good defensive catcher. Rays executive vice president Andrew Friedman explained what the team saw in him to after the transaction was made, per Bill Chastain of MLB.com.
"Ryan Hanigan is a tremendously talented defensive catcher," said Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman. "[He] really shuts down the run game, [and] takes a lot of pride in what he does behind the plate. And we also like what he can do in the batter's box, especially against left-handed pitching. He's a guy we've had our eye on for a while, and so when we had the opportunity to acquire him, we were aggressive to do so."
Hanigan had the best caught-stealing percentages in the National League in both 2012 and 2013. The Rays put a premium on run prevention, so having a catcher who can get outs with his arm is a huge value.
Offensively, he struggled in 2013 recording a .198/.306/.261 line in 75 games. While his 2013 stats leave much to be desired, he has a career .276/.393/.394 line against left-handed pitching.
Transaction Grade: B
The transaction improves the catcher position for the Rays and has the realistic potential to improve the closer role as well.
James Loney is a valuable piece to the Rays infield.
The largest ripple the Rays were able to make was re-signing first baseman James Loney. Last season, Loney had a nice bounce-back year for the Rays finishing with a .299/.348/.430 line. His 13 home runs tied for a career best but ranked him 30th among first basemen.
His lack of power is one reason he was within the Rays' budget.
The value Loney adds to the team that is more significant in his outstanding defense. The Rays cannot afford to pay for top offensive talent. Instead, they build the roster with excellent defensive players that can prevent runs from scoring.
Loney's signing ensures the Rays will retain their entire infield who, with the exception of catcher, finished 2013 as finalists for the AL Gold Glove award at their respective positions.
Transaction Grade: A
The Rays had to retain Loney. His consistent bat coupled with his excellent glove fit perfectly into their blueprint for success.