ST. PETERSBURG — As everyone knows, pettiness is an acceptable quality in a baseball fan. It’s practically part of the package.
For instance, it’s entirely reasonable to expect every trade your team makes to be wildly lopsided. In fact, fans almost revel in the idea of stealing an overlooked gem while unloading their own heartaches on those poor suckers in some other market.
Which is why, today, we bring you the exception to that rule.
Willy Adames has been tearing it up in Milwaukee ever since the Rays traded him three months ago, and we’re okay with that. We’re okay with it because Willy was such a genuinely sweet, happy and generous ballplayer that it’s impossible to wish bad things upon him. We’re also okay with it because, after some short-term frustrations, the trade is now looking like a win for both teams.
Don’t get me wrong, dealing Adames was the right thing to do back in May. His apparent trouble with the lighting in Tropicana Field had made him a liability offensively in Rays’ home games, and his presence was impeding the progress of both Wander Franco and Taylor Walls.
It’s just that, for a while there, it was hard to watch Adames carrying the Brewers to the top of the NL Central after hitting .197 through 41 games with Tampa Bay.
And it didn’t help that it took Franco a month or so to get adjusted to big league pitching. Or that J.P. Feyereisen, one of the pitchers acquired from the Brewers, spent a month on the injured list. Or that Drew Rasmussen, the other pitcher acquired, had an 8.10 ERA in his first five appearances with the Rays.
Yet, as the calendar turns to September, Rays fans should be thankful the trade happened when it did because it’s likely made this a much stronger team heading into the postseason.
Feyereisen, who came off the injured list on Monday, has a 2.28 ERA with three saves in 22 appearances. And Rasmussen has picked up the slack in the Rays rotation in the past month and now has the potential to be Tampa Bay’s No. 3 starter come October. Franco, meanwhile, is hitting .327 with a .538 slugging percentage since July 30.
“I feel like, for us, everyone would say that maybe we lost the trade because we gave away Willy,” Feyereisen said. “But I think if you look at the guys that we have to take his place, I don’t think we lost a whole lot. I mean, Wander’s incredible. And then we have Walls and (Vidal) Brujan. Walls might be the best defensive shortstop I’ve ever seen. So I think, yeah, it’s kind of worked out for both teams.”
Adames, 25, was plugged into the middle of the Milwaukee order from almost his first day in town and has hit .291 with 17 homers and 50 RBIs in just over half a season’s worth of games. Considering his struggles in Tampa Bay at the end of 2020 and the start of 2021, that might feel like the Rays got cheated out of the best that Adames had.
But considering the wide disparity between his home/road splits, it’s not completely shocking that Adames did well once he got away from Tropicana Field. And he had shown enough offensive punch in 2018-19 to know that he had this ability.
“I know there was a patch there — basically the last month of a year ago and the first two months of this year — that maybe he wasn’t himself, and having some offensive struggles,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “But we were all very confident he was a very good player. He’s gone there and proven that, and then some. You talk to the people around Milwaukee, and they make a case that he’s been their MVP since acquiring him and helping to turn that into a special group.”
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Here’s another way of looking at it:
Adames has compiled a 3.3 WAR (baseballreference.com’s wins above replacement stat) during his three months in Milwaukee. Franco, Walls, Feyereisen and Rasmussen have combined for a 4.6 WAR since the trade.
Essentially, the trade made both teams stronger. The Brewers got the shortstop they needed, while the Rays got depth in both the bullpen and the rotation while also opening up a pathway for two of their best prospects.
“That’s the best way to say it,” Cash said. “We’re fortunate we have a guy like ‘Ras’ and certainly ‘Feyer,’ and we had a guy waiting in the wings in Wander and Taylor Walls is right in that conversation. So good for Willy to go and make the most of it. I think when we traded Willy we were all confident he was going to make the most of whatever situation he was thrown into.”
Even a Rays fan should be happy to see that.
John Romano can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @romano_tbtimes.
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