The Rangers are acquiring first baseman Nate Lowe from the Rays for catcher Heriberto Hernandez, infielder Osleivis Basabe and outfielder Alexander Ovalles. The Rays are sending first baseman Jake Guenther and a player to be named later to Texas along with Lowe. Tampa Bay has announced the deal.
Lowe, 25, is the only player in the deal with Major League service time, but he was unable to break into the first-string rotation with Tampa. The Rays have a plethora of options at first base and designated hitter, splitting time primarily between Ji-Man Choi and Yandy Diaz. Yoshi Tsutsugo also fits into the timeshare, while Mike Brosseau and Brandon Lowe are capable of handling the position. There simply wasn’t much room for Lowe to break into a regular role.
Ronald Guzman has kept one foot on the first base bag the last three seasons for the Rangers, but a triple slash of .230/.308/.417 leaves room for an upgrade. The 26-year-old has posted just 0.9 bWAR per 650 plate appearances over that time. Lowe is now in line to take over for Guzman as the Rangers’ primary first baseman, president of baseball operations Jon Daniels told TR Sullivan of MLB.com and other reporters. In 245 plate appearances in 71 games over the past two seasons, Lowe has slashed .251/.322/.447, good for a 106 wRC+. While that may not blow your hat away, conversely, Guzman owns a career 85 wRC+.
Texas fans might remember Guenther from his time at TCU. The Rays chose him in the seventh round of the 2019 draft, giving him time to get just one professional season under his belt. He raked in that time, slashing .320/.431/.423 in the Appalachian League. Despite his lack of professional time, Guenther might be closer to the big leagues than it may seem, as he’ll turn 24 years old in May.
Basabe (No. 20) and Hernandez (24) ranked among the Rangers’ top 30 prospects at MLB.com before the trade. The 20-year-old Basabe has so far topped out in Low-A ball, though he has only accrued 10 plate appearances there. MLB.com is bullish on Basabe, complimenting his contact-oriented skills at the plate and noting his “well-above-average speed” could help him turn into “a dynamic basestealer.”
Hernandez, also 20, has torn the cover off the ball between the rookie and Low-A levels since his professional career began in 2020. To this point, Hernandez has batted .320/.450/.635 with 23 home runs in 473 minor league plate appearances. FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen ranked Hernandez third in the Rangers’ system last April and argued he could “be a very special hitter,” though Longenhagen isn’t high on his defense behind the plate.
Ovalles, yet another 20-year-old, isn’t as highly regarded as Basabe or Hernandez. He does have the most experience among the three in Low-A (100 plate appearances), but Ovalles only put up a .187/.250/.319 line there in 2019.
Initial news of the trade came from MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand (via Twitter). Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star Telegram (via Twitter) noted the inclusion of Basabe as part of the six-player deal. Rangers’ Executive Vice President of Communications John Blake filled in the rest of the deal (via Twitter).