Of the four players that came over in the Jason Bartlett trade following 2010’s team Tampa Bay team of destiny, Cesar Ramos has proven to have the most staying power. Brandon Gomes has rode the shuttle, Adam Russell rode the last bus out of town, and Cole Figueroa looks like a high-IQ player that doesn’t have the physical abilities to be much more than an injury fill-in. Damning with faint praise, fa sho, but Ramos was an adequate player here with a low ceiling and niche role as a swingman. They’re necessary, but nobody is breaking the bank for one.
Which is why it makes sense for the Rays to get something of value for him as he enters his second year arbitration with one more to follow. Matt Swartz of MLBTR thinks he’ll get $1.3M this year which should push him closer to $2M for 2016. Used almost exclusively as a long reliever/mop up/spot starter guy he rarely saw high leverage (0.56 in his career, 1.00 is a “normal” situation). While Ramos is obviously a lefty, this nugget gives me pause on the idea that he would profile as a LOOGY, or a lefty one out guy that generally comes in to ultra high leverage to either turn a batter around or exploit his weakness. Furthermore, Ramos has been better against lefties (see below), but he doesn’t feature the huge split that usually differentiates these guys from pitchers that you can use against both types of batters.
So the Angels are getting a guy that features some useful versatility, and the ceiling is pretty low for both production and price. The Rays aren’t just giving this guy away, though. In addition to saving close to a million dollars they also clear a spot on both the 25- and 40-man rosters. They also will be getting a fringe prospect in return which is more than they would have gotten for Ramos at the end of the year. I would love to go into the details on Mark Sappington a little more, but I think Ron Shah and Kiley McDaniel have put together a very nice scouting report that includes video. Far more information than I could hope to give you so take a few minutes and check that out.
Long story short, we’re talking about a big hoss that throws hard and might someday either find the strike zone or develop a solid-average slider. Do one of those things and maybe he’s a right-handed Ramos that should only face righties. Do both and he’s a very useful reliever with a total of six years of control with most of those being either for league min or not much more. This is an upside play for a piece that is imminently replaceable in the short term without really denting the 2015 outlook. Kudos to Mr. Silverman on his first trade as this looks like a nice low-risk get. Couple this acquisition with the Michael Kohn signing and Silverman is showing just what he thinks of last year’s bullpen. Useful pieces like this rarely are the difference makers by themselves in a season, but adding guys that bring something to the table on low cost deals is a great way to build a pen. Surely can’t be any worse than his predecessor signing a guy for two years and $12M and then skeetering out the backdoor before anyone could notice.