Rays get Miller, Morrison, Farquhar from M's
Tampa Bay deals away Karns, Riefenhauser, Powell in six-player deal
ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays made a dynamic move to improve their offense Thursday night by pulling the trigger on a six-player trade with the Mariners.
The Rays acquired shortstop Brad Miller, first baseman/outfielder Logan Morrison and right-handed reliever Danny Farquhar in exchange for right-hander Nathan Karns, left-hander C.J. Riefenhauser and Minor League outfielder Boog Powell.
"We feel even better about the talent that we'll have on the infield next year," said Matt Silverman, Rays president of baseball operations. "We feel better about our lineup versus right-handed pitching, especially. And feel better about the general balance of our roster."
Silverman cited the left-handed bats of Morrison and Miller as being critical to the deal.
"[Their bats] make us more formidable offensively against right-handed pitching," Silverman said. "But also in terms of the balance of our roster. We have a logjam at starting pitching, and there's certain ways that it works out, and so trading Nate [Karns] away helps alleviate some of that logjam that we know that we're going to have heading into Spring Training."
Miller, 26, hit .258 with 11 home runs, 46 RBIs and 13 stolen bases in 144 games in 2015. His acquisition appears to signal that incumbent shortstop and free agent, Asdrubal Cabrera, will not be back with the team after having a good 2015 season. Miller's arrival also seems to reflect on what the Rays think about the prospect of Tim Beckham or Nick Franklin playing shortstop next season.
"[The trade] certainly makes it more difficult to bring back Cabrera," Silverman said. "And with Brad Miller, we have a deeper collection of middle infielders. We've liked him for a while. We've been impressed by his work at shortstop. And it's always a plus to have a left-handed-hitting middle infielder.
"I'm glad it lined up with him. And we'll take him and the many other guys we have and head into spring feeling good about our situation in the middle infield."
Miller made starts at shortstop (83), center field (20), left field (9), designated hitter (6), second base (5), third base (1) and right field (1). Only one other American League shortstop could match his combination of homers, stolen bases and slugging percentage (.402): Houston's Carlos Correa, who hit 22 homers, drove in 68 and slugged .512.
Given Miller's versatility, Silverman was asked if the Rays project Miller to be a full-time shortstop or a super utility-type player.
"We have looked at him as a middle infielder and someone who can play shortstop at the Major League level," Silverman said. "The versatility he has is a bonus and certainly could come into play. But that wasn't the focus of this.
"Our focus was getting a middle infielder, especially a guy who can play shortstop. But we certainly don't discount the flexibility that he brings with the mulitple positions he can play."
Morrison, 28, hit .225 with 17 home runs and 54 RBIs in a career-high 146 games in 2015, his first time appearing in at least 100 games since 2011. His home run and RBI totals were his most since he had 23 homers and 72 RBIs with the Marlins that same year.
The Rays struggled against right-handed pitching in 2015. This trade immediately fortifies the lineup facing right-handers going forward.
"We're never forced to make a deal, but we don't compete in the high end of the free-agent market," Silverman said. "So to address needs, we usually have to use the trade market and the trade avenue. So that's why we're especially focused and active in those conversations."
In his career, Morrison has made 284 starts at first base and 249 starts in the outfield.
"He has the ability to play first base," Silverman said. "He has the ability to play the outfield. Certainly has the type of bat that fits in the DH role. And we're excited about that bat.
"He's a professional hitter. He's got some pop from the left side, and you add him to our lineup and we're immediately more formidable. Especially against right-handed pitching. And that was an area that we stated we needed to address this offseason."
Farquhar, 28, experienced a down season in 2015, posting a 1-8 record with a 5.12 ERA in 43 appearances spanning five stints with the Mariners. Silverman was asked about the motivation for acquiring Farquhar.
"We look at the whole body of work," Silverman said. "... We've liked Danny's stuff for a couple of years now. We've been active for a number of years in talking to Seattle about players. And we happened to line up today.
"Danny has several pitches. He's shown the ability to get out both righties and lefties. He has a couple of years under his belt, which also means he has several years of control left. And we're excited to see how he fits into our bullpen mix going forward."
Karns, who will turn 28 on Nov. 25, was named the team's Outstanding Rookie by the Tampa Bay Chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. He went 7-5 with a 3.67 ERA and led AL rookies with 26 starts, 147 innings and 145 strikeouts. He allowed two runs or fewer in 19 of his starts, a Rays rookie record.
If Spring Training were to start tomorrow, the Rays could shape their starting rotation from a mix that includes Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi, Matt Moore, Erasmo Ramirez, Drew Smyly, Matt Andriese, and top prospect Blake Snell. In addition, Alex Cobb should be back with the team sometime in August following Tommy John surgery.
"It's the first week of November," Silverman said. "This deal came together pretty quickly and early in the offseason, in part because of how well we lined up with Seattle. And we're fortunate to have some depth with starting pitching. And especially with the emergence of Ramirez and getting Moore and Smyly back to full health.
"We had the ability to make a trade like this. We're not as deep right now with the loss of Karns. But we were able to take him, and Rief, and Powell, and address some pressing needs for our club."
Riefenhauser, 25, made 17 appearances over four stints with the Rays in 2015, going 1-0 with a 5.52 ERA. Powell, 22, split the season between Double-A Montgomery and Triple-A Durham and ranked third in the Rays' Minor League system with a combined .295 batting average. He was acquired from the Athletics as part of a five-player trade on Jan. 10.