Hours after deciding to tender a contract to Burke Badenhop, the Rays traded the relief pitcher to the Brewers in exchange for minor league outfielder Raul Mondesi Jr.
Acquired by Tampa Bay via trade last winter, Badenhop made a career-high 66 appearances in 2012 and posted a career-best 3.03 ERA. After making a $1.075 million salary this past season, he was due to receive a modest raise through arbitration.
The decision to move Badenhop appears to be financially motivated. Although the 29-year-old was effective, and likely will be going forward, his skill set (groundball, modest strikeout rates, pedestrian stuff) is readily available on the open market. For a team looking to cut costs in certain areas to improve others, paying a seven-figure salary to the fifth or sixth strongest link in the bullpen chain might not have been the best use of resources—especially not in this year’s market.
As it stands, there is a bevy of right-handed relievers freely available - including several groundball specialists such as the recently non-tendered Peter Moylan. Though Badenhop did his job well in 2012 – especially in double-play situations – the supply and demand of this year’s relief class may actually net the Rays an upgrade in talent; perhaps without an increase in salary for the role. The Rays also have internal candidates like Dane De La Rosa and Josh Lueke—both whom would cost the league minimum.
At this point in his career, Mondesi Jr. is better known for his name than his play. The son of the former major-league All-Star by the same name, the younger Mondesi has struggled as a professional since leaving the Dominican Republic. He is a toolsy outfielder with a smallish frame and big confidence. The likelihood of Mondesi becoming more than an organizational player grows more remote by the season; however, he does have the bloodlines, pedigree, and youth to reverse his current course.