The biggest news of the day is the Diamondbacks picking up Tampa Bays reliever for an A ball pitcher for the 2nd time in the last calendar year. Back in November, the Diamondbacks acquired closer Brad Boxberger for RHP Curtis Taylor. Today they’ve gone to that well again with the team traded for Matt Andriese. For Andriese, they traded Reno Aces (AAA) catcher Michael Perez and Kane County Cougars (A) starter Brian Shaffer.
Matt Andriese is a converted starter who has pitched almost exclusively out the Rays bullpen with his starts being short stints at the start of games in a role that’s been dubbed as the “Opener”. In 27 appearances, Andriese has pitched to a 4.07 ERA with 59 strikeouts and 18 walks in 59 2⁄3 innings. Opponents are batting .238 against him on the season and has yielded 7 home runs. On the surface, his numbers aren’t that interesting but his ability to be able to pitch in various scenarios such as middle relief, long relief, or even an emergency spot starter should intrigue the Diamondbacks. His overall repertoire consists of a mid 90s fastball, a cutter, curveball, and change-up. His four-seam fastball averages 92 MPH with an above average spin rate of 2390 RPM, making it tough for a hitter to square up. The change-up is his primary secondary pitch and it’s very effective as both a ground ball and swing-and-miss pitch. It’s deadly to LHH with the fade and downward action away from their barrels and swing path altogether. The curveball is a decent 3rd pitch if used sparingly due to being mostly a ground ball pitch or steal a strike pitch. The cutter is a pitch he can afford to completely scrap for the season, it does nothing for him overall.
Last year, the Diamondbacks employed Randall Delgado in that role before elbow trouble ended his season. Delgado came back from an oblique injuries and more elbow issues, but his stuff was greatly diminished in the few outings he appeared in with his fastball dropping from 94-96 to 91-93 and his secondaries being very flat overall. As a result, they elected to upgrade that spot and send Delgado packing as the corresponding roster move. With Andriese under team control through the 2021 season, the team has the right-handed long guy role under wraps for a while unless Andriese shows he can handle high leverage situations. If that’s the case, he joins the back-end of the pen and with LHH not being an issue for him so he’d go an inning or two.
Advanced metrics such as ERA-, FIP- paint him mostly as an average pitcher in terms of run prevention with slightly above average peripherals. xFIP- and SIERA believe he’s been somewhat unlucky on HR/FB rate and paint him as a mid-3 ERA pitcher. His strikeout and walk rates are pretty close to Archie Bradley’s numbers on the season, although the latter is better at inducing ground ball contact (53.6% vs. 50.6%). With the Diamondbacks having a more stable rotation than the Rays, Andriese should end up being a full time reliever on this team. His numbers are excellent when facing a lineup first time through with a .586 OPS (66 sOPS+) first time through starting and .656 (83 sOPS+) as a reliever. Andriese has been poor as a high leverage reliever, solid in medium leverage, and average in low leverage situations.
From an exit velocity standpoint, Andriese is having his best year in that department. Batters are averaging an exit velocity of 88.7 MPH against him, 8.2 degree launch angle, and 5.8% of contact being labeled a barrel. All three marks are career lows for him, despite a career worst hard hit rate of 44.8% (95+ EV). That’s yielded a .313 xwOBA on the season, which is slightly higher than the .300 wOBA he’s allowed. On top of those improvements in exit velocity, he’s also inducing more ground ball contact.
The best use for him is either as the Opener, which will not happen due to the Dbacks having 4-5 competent starters (depending on which Zack Godley shows up), or as a middle/long reliever to eat up innings. The high leverage issue makes me a bit hesitant to see him being a bridge guy from starter to back-end, although he also just moved to the bullpen permanently this year so there isn’t enough of a sample size to judge either. At the minimum, he should eat up innings a la T.J. McFarland does from the left side. With two lefties in the rotation, having a right-handed reliever who can give you multiple innings is a nice piece to have.
From the prospect side, the major piece is starter Brian Shaffer. Shaffer was a 6th round pick last year who’s pitched very well for the Diamondbacks full season A ball affiliate. Shaffer is 7-5 with a 2.70 ERA in 19 starts. Overall he’s posted excellent control numbers with 102 strikeouts vs. 21 walks in 106 2⁄3 innings pitched. Shaffer is a control specialist with 135 strikeouts to 22 walks in his pro career, although his stuff doesn’t jump off the page overall. His upside and floor are basically the same projection as a bottom of the rotation starter. Overall, he should move quickly up Tampa Bay’s system as he continues to show solid control and keeping the ball in the park. I had him ranked as the Dbacks’ 5th best SP prospect at the midseason point behind Jon Duplantier, Taylor Widener, Taylor Clarke, and Emilio Vargas.
The other prospect going in the trade is catcher Michael Perez. Perez was a 5th round pick out of Puerto Rico in the 2011 draft and took a long and steady route to the top of the farm system. With Perez blocked at the MLB level by Alex Avila and John Ryan Murphy and prospects Daulton Varsho and Dominic Miroglio from below, the Diamondbacks elected to trade Perez to a team that could use him. The Rays will likely sell on Wilson Ramos at the deadline as a rental piece for a team that needs catching, so Perez could fill in for them there as well as earn the opportunity to be a catcher for them long term. After years of not being able to produce with the bat, Perez re-surfaced in 2017 with a strong season for the Jackson Generals and following it up with a solid year for the Reno Aces. Perez does not hit for a lot of power, but has solid plate discipline and strong bat to ball skills, which has yielded high BABIPs over the last two seasons. I had Perez as the #3 catching prospect in the organization between Andy Yerzy and Miroglio.
Overall, the prospect level are two guys that near surefire MLB contributors but with very low upside overall. Shaffer is likely a #4/5 starter and Perez a possible backup/platoon option as a catch and throw guy with a below average bat. The Diamondbacks aren’t picking up a high-leverage reliever either, although Andriese is an upgrade over the middle reliever he’s replacing and has more team control. The move itself is minor compared to some of the names being bandied about at the deadline with two teams trading low to medium upside contributors. The Diamondbacks made one solid move for the bullpen, but they certainly should not be done upgrading the bullpen. A starting pitcher acquisition is unlikely due to the cost of a starter in these type deals, but the team certainly has the chips to get another reliever for the stretch run.