Finally landing a man they’ve long been rumored to have interest in, the Tampa Bay Rays acquired catcher Ryan Hanigan in a three deal trade early Tuesday afternoon. Right-handed reliever Heath Bell also heads to Tampa Bay in the deal that involved the Cincinnati Reds and Arizona Diamondbacks. In total five players moved between the clubs.
Hanigan will step in and help solidify the Rays’ catching situation alongside the recently re-signed Jose Molina. The pair will likely share time behind the plate, at least initially, but Hanigan will be expected to take on the bulk of that load. Defense has long been his main calling card – he’s one of the best in the game when it comes to throwing out opposing base stealers (a career mark topping 40%) – but he’s shown signs of promise at the plate over the past five seasons in Cincinnati. Entering the 2013 season he boasted career numbers of .275/.370/.729 in just over 1,300 PA.
This past season, however, was just simply a major disappointment. Hanigan struggled to a .198/.306/.261 line, appearing in just 75 games (260 PA). A wrist injury did force him to spend some time on the disabled list as well. Cincinnati struck early this offseason, agreeing to a deal with free agent catcher Brayan Pena to step in and backup incumbent started Devin Mesoraco. The move made Hanigan expendable and rumblings of a potential deal sending him to Tampa Bay began.
Hanigan would have been facing arbitration in the coming weeks, but shortly after the deal was completed ESPN’s Buster Olney reported that the two sides had reached an agreement on a three year deal worth $11 Million. The deal includes a club option for a fourth year, which could add another $3.75 Million to the total value.
What’s curious is how the deal ended up needing to involved a third team in order to be completed. Tampa Bay ultimately is not parting with any significant players in the deal, as Choate is a relative unknown and the player to be named later isn’t expected to be a highly touted prospect (it’s at least not someone currently on the team’s 40-man roster, according to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times). The Rays were able to swing such a move by agreeing to take on the bulk of what’s left on Bell’s contract for 2014. They’ll be responsible for roughly $5.5 Million of his $9 Million salary (Arizona will pay $500,000, the Miami Marlins will cover the remaining $3 Million).
Bell is coming off a year in which he posted a 4.11 ERA and 1.371 WHIP over 65.2 IP for the D’backs. He saved 15 games and improved to a 9.9 K/9 rate, but was prone to the long ball (1.6 HR/9). He’s 36 and on the tail end of what was a respectable career. It’s unclear how much he might have left in the tank, but the Rays are known to get the most out of veteran bullpen arms so perhaps he could see some improvements working out of the team’s bullpen this season. Tampa Bay does not have a defined closer in place, as they’re allowing Fernando Rodney to depart via free agency in all likelihood, and Bell could potentially be an option worked into that mix.