In what could be the first of many moves for the team before the trade deadline, the Minnesota Twins shipped impending free agent Kendrys Morales to the Seattle Mariners for right-handed pitcher Stephen Pryor.
The move was announced by the Mariners' official Twitter account:
The #Mariners have acquired 1B/DH Kendrys Morales from the Twins in exchange for RHP Stephen Pryor. Morales will report to the club tomorrow— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) July 24, 2014
With Morales being the known commodity in the trade, going back to the team he played for in 2013, everyone knows what he can do. He's a 31-year-old veteran who has a history of hitting for average (.277 career mark) and power (.470 slugging), even though those two skills haven't shown up this season.
Pryor, on the other hand, is coming to Minnesota after spending most of this season with Triple-A Tacoma and posting a 4.65 ERA with 30 strikeouts and 21 walks in 34.2 innings.
The Mariners are selling low on the 25-year-old Pryor, and there are reasons to be skeptical about his future.
He's not a high-ceiling pitcher as a reliever. During his brief MLB run from 2012-13, the right-hander averaged around 96 mph with his fastball, per FanGraphs.com, but it's dropped down to 91.7 mph this season, although that only covers 1.2 innings.
Dave Cameron of FanGraphs.com noted how poor Minnesota's signing of Morales has turned out:
The Twins ended up paying about $3 million for the right to trade for Stephen Pryor. Whoopsie.— David Cameron (@DCameronFG) July 24, 2014
As you can tell from Pryor's Triple-A stat line this season, his biggest obstacle is control. Vince Lara-Cinisomo of BaseballAmerica.com provided a more detailed scouting report for the right-hander:
He has a big, strong frame and his stuff is just as intimidating as his 6-foot-4, 245-pound appearance. He loads up on his back leg and fires his fastball between 94-97 mph, topping out at 99. The issue with him has been control and he also hasn’t found a way to conquer lefties. He’s been serving as a setup reliever, and that is likely his ceiling unless he develops an offspeed pitch to combat portside batters.
Another problem for Pryor, which could also explain the loss in velocity, were injuries to his lat muscle and a triceps issue that forced the Mariners to shut him down last August.
All of these issues add up to a pitcher losing value, which is what you expect considering he was traded straight up for a hitter with a .584 OPS.
Which player will have more impact in the second half?
However, an optimist can see where Pryor fits in with the Twins for at least the next couple of years. He's not far removed from showing a power fastball, which could return with a full offseason of working out.
The Twins aren't going to compete for a playoff spot in 2014 and, barring something unexpected, in 2015. Pryor is going to a low-pressure environment that will allow him to forge an identity, even if he fails early on, which he will because 99 percent of players do.
By the time the Twins are ready to compete in 2016, barring any significant injuries and demotions, Pryor will only be in his second full season and cost the team a few hundred thousand dollars.
In today's relief market, that's a bargain every team hopes to find. All the Twins had to give up for it was a player they weren't going to retain after this season.
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