5:16pm: Both clubs have announced the deal, making it official.
2:26pm: The Rays and Marlins have reportedly agreed to a trade that will send shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria from Miami to Tampa Bay in exchange for minor league outfielder Braxton Lee and minor league right-hander Ethan Clark. The Rays will take on all of Hechavarria’s remaining salary.
Hechavarria, 27, has been out for more than a month due to a strained oblique muscle but is ready to return to the field. While he doesn’t bring much to the table from an offensive standpoint, he’ll dramatically improve the Rays’ infield defense whenever he’s on the field. The Rays have relied primarily upon Tim Beckham and Daniel Robertson at shortstop in 2017 due to the fact that projected starter Matt Duffy has missed the entire year to date with a heel injury that recently required minor surgery.
From 2015-16, Hechavarria posted excellent defensive marks at shortstop, grading out at +18 Defensive Runs Saved and a +24.1 Ultimate Zone Rating. However, while that superlative glovework was paired with a respectable .281/.315/.374 batting line in 2015, Hechavarria has slashed just .241/.283/.319 in 614 trips to the dish since that time. He’s also earning $4.35MM this season, which was reportedly the Marlins’ primary motivation for finding a trading partner.
The Rays will control Hechavarria for one more season via the arbitration process, if they’re so inclined. Retaining him would mean giving him a raise on that $4.35MM salary in arbitration, though his injury and lack of production at the plate will likely limit the size of the raise to a fairly nominal amount.
Exactly how Hechavarria fits into the mix for the Rays remains to be seen. While he looks like the clear favorite to play shortstop on an everyday basis for the time being, Tampa Bay will need to decide what to do with the combination of Backham, Robertson and, when he returns from the disabled list, Brad Miller — the latter of whom was the primary second baseman prior to getting injured. One of Beckham or Robertson seems likely to be sent out — Beckham is out of options, so Robertson seems likelier — but the eventual returns of Miller and Duffy will further crowd the infield mix.
As for the players that Miami will receive in return, neither Lee nor Clark entered the season rated among Tampa Bay’s top 30 prospects. Lee, a 12th-round pick out of the University of Mississippi back in 2014, is hitting .318/.387/.391 through 296 plate appearances in Double-A this season, although it’s his second season at that level and he’ll turn 24 in August, so he’s not especially young relative to the competition that he’s facing. That production has been buoyed by a .397 BABIP, though, and Clark has never shown any power, with just two homers in his pro career.
Clark, meanwhile, has a 3.11 ERA with 8.2 K/9, 2.9 BB/9 and a 39.9 percent ground-ball rate in 55 innings at Class-A Bowling Green. The former 15th-round pick (Crowder College, 2015) is 22 years of age, so he’s not young for the Class-A Midwest League, either.
For the Marlins, the move boils down to primarily a salary dump, as they’ll save $2.33MM by moving Hechavarria and the entirety of his contract. The trade likely opens up an everyday role for 25-year-old JT Riddle to attempt to establish himself as Miami’s new long-term shortstop, though Riddle has been mired in a dreadful slump at the plate and is currently batting just .230/.251/.354 with three homers, nine doubles and a triple through 173 big league plate appearances.
Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald first reported that Hechavarria was on the trade block, and Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports added that he was likely to be traded in the very near future (via Twitter). ESPN’s Buster Olney reported that the Rays had made significant strides in getting a deal worked out (Twitter link). MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro tweeted that the Rays were the front-runners. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times tweeted that Lee and Clark were involved in talks, and Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald broke the news (on Twitter) that the deal was done.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.