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.