TAMPA BAY RAYS
Let’s talk about the Tampa Bay Rays. Per Rays beat reporter Juan Toribio, Tampa Bay is looking to add ‘multiple’ relievers to a pitching staff that currently leads the MLB in fWAR at 12.5. With Diego Castillo on the mend and José Alvarado on leave, the lack of depth behind Jalen Beeks and former Mariner Emilio Pagán has now become more apparent.
With this deal, the Rays not only get a reliever who fits their identity in Elías. They also get Wade LeBlanc, who, aside from a six-run meltdown versus the A’s, has been dominant since the Mariners shifted towards using an opener in his starts. In four of those five particular outings, LeBlanc allowed just five runs in 25.1 innings of work, including two dominant performances against the elite lineups of Milwaukee and Houston.
It’s fitting that a pitcher who’s found so much success in a piggybacking role would land with the team that popularized the opener strategy. Since Tyler Glasnow‘s forearm injury has taken a turn for the worse, the Rays are playing every fifth start by ear, with the mediocre Austin Pruitt and Andrew Kittredge taking on the bulk of the work. LeBlanc could stabilize these days for Tampa, at least until Brendan McKay is called up or Glasnow eventually returns.
In this deal, the Mariners get one of the better utility prospects in baseball in Nick Solak, who, by the way, is on the cusp of making the big leagues. Much like Shed Long, the jury is still out on Solak’s ability to stick at second base on a consistent basis. The Rays started running Solak out in left and center field on occasion last year, but have only started him in the outfield for 19 of his 72 games this year.
Despite the uncertainty surrounding his positional whereabouts, Solak’s bat is the most exciting tool here. In his first season with Triple-A Durham, Solak is hitting .282/.371/.524 with 16 home runs, 45 RBIs, and a 124 wRC+. The power has made a big jump this year, as Solak is already closing in on his career highs in both homers and doubles.
Both Elías and LeBlanc come cheap and under multiple years of club control each, plus fit the pitching identity of Tampa’s system. Meanwhile, the Mariners get one of the more underrated prospects from an elite system who’s likely just weeks away from his MLB debut and could develop into a significant role player in the near future.