Rays add 3 prospects in trade with Rangers

December 11th, 2020

ST. PETERSBURG -- Though the Rays are still looking to fill a huge void at the catcher position for the 2021 season, Tampa Bay acquired a young backstop that it believes could stabilize the position in a few years.

On Thursday, the Rays and Rangers completed a six-player trade that sent first basemen Nate Lowe and Jake Guenther and a player to be named later to Texas in exchange for catcher/outfielder Heriberto Hernandez, infielder Osleivis Basabe and outfielder Alexander Ovalles.

TRADE DETAILS
Rangers get:
1B Nate Lowe, 1B Jake Guenther, player to be named later
Rays get: IF Osleivis Basabe, C/OF Heriberto Hernandez, OF Alexander Ovalles

What are the Rays getting in the deal?
The Rays won’t see any of the three players they acquired Thursday at the big league level until at least the 2023 season, most likely, but Tampa Bay expects all three prospects to make an impact in the Majors at some point in their careers.

Of the three, Hernandez is the biggest piece in the deal and the largest reason the Rays decided to make the trade. Hernandez is now the Rays’ No. 20 prospect per MLB Pipeline, but he is expected to continue to rise through the rankings if he continues to develop as a catcher. At 20, Hernandez is still working to improve his defense, but his offensive potential at the position caught the Rays’ attention.

Over two Minor League seasons, Hernandez is batting .320 with 23 home runs, 32 doubles and 98 RBIs in 113 games. He played for Class A Short-Season Spokane in 2019, and took part in the Rangers’ instructional league this past October, where the Rays got some in-person scouting done. Hernandez has a 55-grade power tool, which is considered his best asset.

“Heriberto, for us, was probably the primary piece in this,” Rays general manager Erik Neander said. “We like all three, but he was likely the primary piece and someone that we think has a chance to be a special bat.”

Basabe, 20, has also impressed with the bat early in his career. In his first two Minor League seasons, he is batting .334 with 18 doubles, one home run and 19 stolen bases in 89 games. Basabe, who was signed out of Venezuela, can play all three outfield spots and projects to be an above-average baserunner.

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What are the Rays giving up in the deal?
Lowe, who is the only big league player in the deal, was the centerpiece of the return for the Rangers. Texas general manager Jon Daniels has already said Lowe will get the opportunity to be the starting first baseman, which is an opportunity Lowe never got in Tampa Bay and wasn’t expected to receive in 2021.

“Our assessment of his ability and his readiness to be a Major League contributor, that’s been pretty constant for a little while here,” Neander said of the decision to trade Lowe. “But the opportunity, things were a little jammed up here.”

Though Lowe was productive at the plate in his limited time last season, smashing four homers in 67 at-bats, the 25-year-old never got consistent playing time due to Ji-Man Choi’s emergence at the position. Lowe was not part of any of the Rays’ postseason rosters after the American League Wild Card Series in 2020.

Moving forward, Choi is expected to be the primary first baseman next season, with Mike Brosseau and Yandy Díaz serving as right-handed options against left-handed pitching. Yoshi Tsutsugo, who played left field and third base last season, could be an option to replace Lowe as the backup left-handed first baseman behind Choi.

Another significant aspect of the trade for the Rays was creating some more room on the 40-man roster. Following the trade, they now have two open spots, giving them more flexibility to acquire Major League players via trade or free agency.

What comes next?
While it remains to be seen just how active the Rays will be this offseason, Tampa Bay is still looking to add a couple pitchers, particularly ones who can provide length either out of the bullpen or as starters.

With Charlie Morton now in Atlanta and Yonny Chirinos and Jalen Beeks both scheduled to miss the majority (if not all) of next season, the Rays will be in the market for at least one starting pitcher. Martín Pérez could be an option, and both sides have had discussions, according to a source, but nothing is imminent.

On the offensive side, the Rays aren’t looking for any particular type of hitter. Instead, Tampa Bay is valuing players who can provide positional flexibility, and it has that currently on its roster. The only glaring hole is at catcher, where the Rays will have to find at least two players.