9:19am: The teams have officially announced the four-player trade. Tampa Bay placed lefty Jalen Beeks, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery, on the 60-day injured list to open a 40-man roster spot. The Red Sox, notably, announced that backup catcher Kevin Plawecki has been placed on the Covid-19 related injured list (which can be done either for positive cases or for players who have been exposed to positive cases).
9:00am: The two sides have agreed to the trade of Mazza, Springs and cash for Hernandez and Sogard, tweets Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.
8:09am: The Rays and Red Sox are moving toward a trade that would send recently designated-for-assignment pitchers Chris Mazza and Jeffrey Springs from Boston to Tampa Bay in exchange for minor league catcher Ronaldo Hernandez and another Rays farmhand, reports Alex Speier of the Boston Globe (Twitter thread). MLB.com’s Adam Berry tweets that 23-year-old Nick Sogard, the Rays’ 12th-round pick in 2019, is the other player going to Boston in the deal.
Hernandez ranked among the game’s top 100 prospects as recently as the 2018-19 offseason, so it’s a bit of a surprise to see the Rays deal him and another minor leaguer in exchange for a pair of recently DFA’ed arms. Hernandez’s prospect stock has tumbled in recent seasons, however, and the Rays are likely aiming to stockpile as much optionable pitching depth as possible to get them through a 2021 season when most pitchers will be on limited workloads.
Mazza, 31, has spent time in the Majors with the Mets and Red Sox across the past two seasons but hasn’t matched his strong Triple-A results. In 46 1/3 big league innings, he’s posted a 5.05 ERA and 4.96 SIERA with sub-par strikeout (21.3), walk (11.0) and ground-ball (35.4) percentages. Mazza does carry a 3.72 ERA in 92 Triple-A frames and a 3.24 mark in 283 2/3 Double-A innings, but he’s been with five MLB organizations (Twins, Marlins, Mariners, Mets, Red Sox) and hasn’t carried those results to the big leagues yet.
The 2020 season was Springs’ first with the Red Sox, and it proved to be a struggle. In 20 1/3 frames, the former Rangers southpaw was tagged for a 7.08 ERA. He struck out 28 percent of his opponents against just a seven percent walk rate, but five of the 99 opponents Springs faced took him deep. He has a 5.42 ERA and 4.66 FIP in 84 2/3 innings at the Major League level between the Texas and Boston organizations.
Mazza limited hard contact reasonably well in 2020, while Springs showed plenty of aptitude for missing bats even if he yielded too many long balls. Both figure to be shuttled back and forth between the Rays’ Triple-A club in Durham and their MLB roster throughout the season. The Rays surely believe they can coax more out of both players as well, either by tinkering with their pitch mixes or altering their approach with the existing arsenals of Mazza and Springs.
The trade also illustrates the volatility of prospects and serves as a reminder not to be too beholden to prospect lists, which are typically just a snapshot in time anyhow. Hernandez posted big numbers in Rookie ball and had a strong full-season debut in 2018 when he slashed .284/.339/.494 with 21 homers in 109 games. His 2019 season in Class-A Advanced, however, resulted in a lackluster .265/.299/.397 showing, though he did rebound with a good showing during 11 games of Arizona Fall League action.
Hernandez still ranked 13th among Tampa Bay prospects, per Baseball America, but perhaps the Rays’ internal evaluations vary. It’s tougher than ever to evaluate prospects right now after they didn’t have a minor league season in 2020 and weren’t as widely accessible for scouts. The Rays may feel that Hernandez’s stock is more diminished than the general public consensus. Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, meanwhile, knows Hernandez quite well from his time as a Rays vice president and was likely more than content to roll the dice on a prospect at an organizational position of need when the cost was a pair of arms the Sox determined to be fringe 40-man contributors.
Boston will also pick up Sogard, a utility-infield type who is devoid of any power but can move around the diamond with a contact-driven skill set at the plate. Sogard hit all of two home runs in his NCAA career and slashed .290/.405/.313 in 63 games for the Rays’ short-season Class-A affiliate following the draft. He walked nearly as often as he struck out that year — a trend which aligns with his college days at Loyola Marymount.