Kevin JepsenThe Rays made one trade at the trade deadline in July, sending reliever Kevin Jepsen to the Twins for a pair of minor leaguers. Not exactly a blockbuster deal, but the move apparently had a lasting impression on some of the other players.

Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times recently wrote about the bullpen struggles this year (“AL-high 22 blown saves … an MLB-most 34 losses and a 3.80 ERA that ranks ninth in the AL and would be their worst since 2009) and he dropped this little nugget:

“…people around the clubhouse say there was definitely an impact on the spirit and the chemistry after the Rays traded veteran reliever Kevin Jepsen at the July 31 deadline. And traded him (for two low-level minor-league pitchers) to a Twins team they were chasing in the wild-card race. While other teams were adding, there was a feeling among some around the Rays that management had given up.”

Again, the trade was not a big deal in the grand scheme of trades and the Rays trading a peaking reliever for prospects is a typical Rays move. So, at the time, it didn’t seem like a big deal.

But what most of us missed at the time was that the Rays were using the bullpen more than ever — the Rays’ relievers lead the AL with 503.1 innings, trailing only the Diamondbacks and Rockies in the NL — and here they were trading away not only a key member of team fighting for a playoff spot and to a team they were competing with, but they were also trading away depth.

Now we look back at the comments made by Brad Boxberger last week about being overused, and while we can still roll our eyes at that, we can now start to at least see where some of the frustration comes from. Sure, the Rays could call up a reliever to take the missing innings, but the guy from triple-A is not taking over the important outs that Jepsen got. Those outs are going to go to the guys who already felt at the time that they were being overused.

And while nobody could have predicted that Jake McGee would be hurt a few weeks after the trade deadline, the other relievers can point to that and say the trade made this even worse and left them unprepared for something like an injury to a key player.

Say what you want about Joe Maddon and the genius of the front office and how the system works. None of this kind of stuff happened under the watch of Andrew Friedman and Maddon even in the rare seasons the team did struggle. There is still time for everybody to grow into their positions and learn from the mistakes, but they are off to a rough start.

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14 Comments

  1. Giles says:

    If you think the Jepsen trade may have actually cost the Rays 4 or 5 wins, which I believe it could have, you really have to wonder what the heck the front office was thinking. Those guys seem too smart for a trade like this - the risks were obvious at the time. While they would not have been up with Toronto and New York, they at least would be playing the "competitive games in September" as to which they aspire for. Perhaps a rookie mistake by Silverman. Got to hope the low level minor leaguers they acquired from the Twins turn into something special.

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  2. Gus says:

    Glad to see my line of argument for the last 4-5 weeks has made it into the mainstream press.

    Actually, Longo's quotes at the time of the Jepsen trade were about as outspoken against the front office as he is ever going to get.

    It was and is front office malpractice, probably directed by ownership to save some $. (Remember the Price trade was made somewhat hastily last July after the Rays dropped a tough day game to the O's', suddenly Price was on the market). Sternberg is an emotional cat, and is always looking to light the torch at the trade deadline to save $ (Kazmir (waiver deadline) in 2009 when only 2.5 out of the wild card; Price 2014, Jepsen 2015). It is one thing to say we can't add this is our team; it is quite another to cut the legs out from your team (putting away WAR and metrics, trading good important pieces when you are busting it to make the playoffs has to be demoralizing to the players; it demoralizes the fanbase).

    Good for Topkin for asking the questions we ask around here.

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    • OriginalTom says:

      The Price trade was not done in haste. People on this site were calling for him to be traded back in June.

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      • Dave L says:

        Exactly.

        Friedman did exactly this kind of stuff all the time virtually ever year and off season.

        Getting a little bit worse for now and crossing his fingers that younger cheaper guys would step up and pick up the slack and the younger cheaper (with many years of control) talent he brought back in return would make the or stronger in the coming years.

        Its Friedman 101.

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        • Gus says:

          Price deal was made in haste -- according to Dave Dombroski, the guy who traded for him. According to his story, they had talked to the Rays in June, but were told they weren't trading him at all. Stayed that was until the loss to the O's the day before the deadline; then it was done 18 hours later. Friedman didn't make that decision by himself; that was Sternberg throwing in the towel.

          Probably also a big factor in Friedman and Maddon leaving later that year.

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          • Dave L says:

            Everybody and their brother in Rays land knew Price was likely gone at the deadline, and so far it looks like a good deal .

            Of course the Rays said no way in June, its called negotiating from a position of strength not weakness.

            It was done once the Dombrowski agreed to give the Rays who they wanted. They didnt need to Google Smyly, Frankin and Adames.

            They left because thier salary was tripled or more by teams with deep pockets. Sternberg Nephew would have left for double what the Rays offered.

            Anybody with half a brain would have.

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          • Gus says:

            http://www.tampabay.com/blogs/rays/rays-decided-on-wednesday-to-trade-price-and-other-trade-details-from/2191434

            Not true. Remember, the Rays original intent was to have Price play out the 2014 season and trade him in the off-season assuming they were in contention in 2014. They played well in early July and weren't in a position of strength to trade Price the day before. A position of strength means you have multiple bidders and you auction him off when you really have something.

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          • OriginalTom says:

            Dave,

            The Price deal may some day work out but so far Price has been a CY Young candidate while Smyly has been on the DL most of the year, Franklin has sucked, and Adames has been great but he is still in the low minors.This does not mean the deal has not worked out or that it will not work out in the future just that it has not worked out yet.

            Gus, Still clinging to the idea the Rays would have received more when a team had only one full season of control over price as opposed to one full season and a playoff chase?

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          • Dave L says:

            O Tom Price was actually the arguably the equivalent of Price during last years playoff run as Smyly pitched went on a tear. Of course he was hurt this year and Franklin by any measure has sucked no doubt.

            The point is we will get many more years of Smyly and hopefully Adames and if the diminutive Franklin is a bust thats acceptable.

            Delayed gratification is the cornerstone of the Rays way but to some like Gus who think wow we were 1 or 2 moves away from glory they just can't accept that. The Rays have always known when to stop fishing and start cutting bait. Most fans cant accept that.

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          • Gus says:

            I'm not saying up or down on results of Price trade or Jepsen trade; I am saying it was perceived by the players and fans as giving up on the season. It is a morale killer -- just as Tulowitski hasn't helped the Blue jays that much in pure WAR, he helped them a ton in morale and spirit, getting fans to the ballpark. All of those things that make a pennant drive.

            Clearly, for 2015, dealing Jepsen HURT this team by several games (the unanticipated loss of McGee exacerbated this too). It HELPED the Twins; would they have made the 2nd wild card? We'll never know.

            To do nothing at the deadline (Friedman's prior tact) in some ways can be spun as a morale booster -- we like our team, we think they can do it. Dumping salary for prospects is a much tougher sell. Cash couldn't sell that this year to this team.

            Kind of a bummer, because the much-discussed change in offensive approach (less take and rake, more hack and run) has worked in the last 2 months. The offense is much better; catcher produced some offense for the first time in ages and except for the Daniel Nava Experience, the OF started to produce.

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  3. Brent says:

    This was suppose to be the "rebuilding" season anyways, and were doing good. I think the players gave up on them selfs, especially after sliding back last month...

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  4. Dave L says:

    Ok we were two games under .500 when the trade occurred. McGee going down and Matt Moore not being effective until September at best which I predicted in the early Summer in my comments doomed the Rays. Most DL days in all of MLB doomed the Rays.

    We are right now 6.5 games back with 13 games to go and 6 teams to leapfrog to get the 2nd wild card.

    But hey there is 13 games to go so if they go on a tear and PROVE management was wrong and close the gap to 2 or 3 games then the arguement has merit.

    But if the gap widens as is more likely your arguements are further weakened. If losing Jepsen caused them to give up they are not professionals and have no chance to make the playoffs with or without him.

    Only two teams have worse records than us!

    We are not one RP from a playoff team. Stop being dreamy fanboys thinking if only this and that we are in the playoffs.

    This was not the Rays year.

    If 3 years from now the Taiwanese kid contributes to the Rays future success we will forget Jepsen and what may turn out to be the worst Rays record in 10 years.

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    • Starmand says:

      "If 3 years from now the Taiwanese kid contributes to the Rays ..."

      I'll be happy when I hear, "Hu's on first". It'll be Nirvana if the Rays get a middle infielder named Watt.

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  5. drsesq says:

    Same thing happened when they traded Kazmir.

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