Tampa Bay Rays Score Ryan Hanigan & Heath Bell In Three-Way Deal
In a rare three-way trade, the Tampa Bay Rays acquired Ryan Hanigan from the Cincinnati Reds and Heath Bell from the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Rays sent Justin Choate, a right handed pitching prospect, and a player-to-be-named or cash considerations to the Snakes. Arizona sent left-handed prospect David Holmberg to the Reds.
The trade is an unusual one for Tampa in that they take on salary, although not much. The team signed Hanigan to a three-year deal totaling $10.75 million, with a fourth year club option that could boost the contract to $13.7 million. Bell is owed $9 million next year, but the Miami Marlins, who originated that contract will be on the hook for much of that, and Arizona will be eating a half-million, leaving the Rays with a $5.5 million liability for a one-year rental of the former closer.
For their part, the Reds consummated a trade of a catcher they no longer needed. With free agent Brayan Pena signed as the backup to their 2007 first-round pick Devin Mesoraco, Hanigan was ready to be surplussed. In return, Cincy received Holmberg, a promising lefty with highly regarded control who Baseball America rated as Arizona’s number six prospect at the start of the 2013 season.
In Choate, the D-Backs get a young live arm who sported a 2.88 ERA in his first year of A-level ball, and they do shed Bell’s salary. But Arizona General Manager Kevin Towers focused on the player to be named, calling him the key player in the trade. This implies that the player has been identified, but cannot be formally dealt at this point. This could mean one of the Rays’ 2013 draftees, perhaps catcher Nick Ciuffo or righty pitcher Ryne Stanek, either of whom would be a significant price to pay.
For the Rays, the deal nets them a fine defensive catcher in Hanigan – one of the few who could rival Jose Molina’s pitch framing skills – who can also hit. Hanigan’s career .262 average is a significant upgrade over the aging Molina, as is his agility behind the plate.
Bell, who earned three All-Star selections as a closer for the San Diego Padres before joining the Marlins and Diamondbacks, still throws hard and strikes out more than a batter per inning. He could follow Fernando Rodney as a high-risk, high-upside candidate to close, but the ninth inning will not simply be handed to him. In Joel Peralta, Jake McGee, the newly re-signed Juan Carlos Oviedo, and last year’s bullpen rookie phenom Alex Torres, the Rays have many options in their relief corps.