Nothing like a good ol’ fashioned three-team trade to spice up an otherwise normal Tuesday during Spring Training.
While plenty of free agents are still searching for jobs with Grapefruit and Cactus League games right around the corner, the Tampa Bay Rays, New York Yankees, and Arizona Diamondbacks got together to swap players amongst themselves.
Here’s how everything breaks down:
— Yankees acquire second baseman Brandon Drury (from ARI).
This deal appears to benefit all parties involved when knowing their specific goals for the upcoming season. However, it’s hard to deny that the motive was probably exactly the same for everyone.
Getting Bang for the Buck
Money has been a hot topic of discussion around baseball this winter. Instead of talking about teams spending too much, though, the focus has been on front offices seemingly being unwilling to open the pocketbook like in the past. This trade was done to not only fill the needs of each particular club, but to also avoid dishing out money and potentially losing draft picks by investing in the free-agent market.
There were a handful of available players New York could’ve signed to play either second or third base — with Mike Moustakas possibly being the most notable option — but they opted to acquire Drury, who is not even eligible for arbitration until 2019. After making just shy of $560K last year in Arizona, this is a very cost-effective move for the Yankees.
Arizona couldn’t retain J.D. Martinez, but they added Jarrod Dyson on a two-year deal to join A.J. Pollock, David Peralta, and Yasmany Tomas to their outfield mix. That wasn’t enough, though, as Souza joins them after a 2017 season in which he registered career-highs in home runs (30), RBI (78), walk rate (13.6%), wRC+ (120), and fWAR (3.7). His 29.0% strikeout rate is rather high, but that was actually a new personal best when looking at the three full MLB seasons he’s played.
The most important detail here is that Arizona gets this production for just $3.55 million in 2018, along with two more arbitration-eligible seasons. They could’ve pursued a number of free agents — like Carlos Gomez, Carlos Gonzalez, or even Seth Smith — but opted for a move they clearly see more value in.
Finally, it’s not hard to see what’s motivating the Rays. They need to cut payroll and have been working fast in recent days to do just that. However, the two prospects they’re getting in return will help bolster a farm system already viewed highly at Baseball America.
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Yanks and DBacks Get Depth
Fresh off surprising runs to the postseason — when considering preseason expectations — in 2017, both New York and Arizona get affordable depth to fortify their roster this year and into the near future.
As powerful as the Yankees’ lineup is projected to be, they currently don’t have solid answers for who will be playing second and third base on a daily basis. Top prospects Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar seem to be the favorites, but New York needed to have some kind of backup plan in case one or both need more time in the minors.
Instead of paying a premium for someone like Moustakas, they get the depth they were looking for in Drury for not much more than the league minimum. This keeps the Yankees well under the luxury tax line, allowing them the flexibility to make midseason additions if necessary.
Tomas appears to be headed to the bench in Arizona because Souza does everything he can do and then some. Both of their strikeout rates are high, but Souza probably won’t be a huge drop-off in power, while he also brings more of an ability to get on base and is much more of an asset with the glove.
Plus, since he’s under team control through 2020, the DBacks at least have more affordable outfield depth on hand if Pollock leaves via free agency next winter.
Impact of Rays Slashing Payroll
After a winter full of talk and not much action with regard to Tampa Bay needing to cut salary, they sure picked an awkward time to start doing it (they were at the mercy of the slow free-agent market, but still).
In the span of just a few days, Jake Odorizzi ($6.3 million) became a member of the Minnesota Twins, Corey Dickerson ($5.95 million) found himself in DFA limbo, and now Souza is also changing time zones. And let’s also not forget that Evan Longoria and most of his $13.5 million salary was traded earlier in the winter. After finishing the 2017 season with a payroll just north of $91 million, per Spotrac, they’re currently under the $80-million mark. That number will change depending on Dickerson’s situation and any potential additions the Rays could still make.
Spring training is supposed to be a time for optimism, but it has to be hard for Rays fans to feel optimistic with this stuff going on. It’s also not an optimal situation when players such as Kevin Kiermaier, Chris Archer, and Brent Honeywell have all voiced their displeasure with what’s been happening.
It’s all a process, but between them and the Marlins, being a baseball fan in Florida is going to be hard this year.
Different Goals, Same Motive
Each of these three teams are in a different position heading into 2018. The Rays are rebuilding, the Yankees are in World Series-or-bust mode, and the Diamondbacks are trying to keep pace in a very competitive National League West.
Despite these differences, though, they all came together motivated by the same thing — to get closer to their respective goals in a way that is both fiscally responsible and didn’t involve free agency.
About Matt Musico
Matt Musico currently manages Chin Music Baseball and contributes to The Sports Daily. His past work has been featured at numberFire, Yahoo! Sports and Bleacher Report. He’s also written a book about how to become a sports blogger. You can sign up for his email newsletter here.