Tuesday, May 7, 2024

The Man Who Was Traded for Himself


Ryan Pepiot getting traded was inevitable.

Pepiot was one of those players, in LA, whose starts were conserved and limited less because of his fragility, though given the Dodgers' recent struggles that did have a little to do with it, and more because it became more and more evident that the Dodgers weren't quite sure what to do with him. Every week or so, the headline 'Pepiot recalled from Oklahoma City' would be followed, what felt like a day later, with 'Pepiot returned to OKC'. And the way it worked, they always brought him up whenever a big starter got injured, and they would only need him until the moment one of their already-injured starters got activated. So two years of 'hello Ryan, goodbye Ryan', and that can't be a gratifying life. He was decent enough when he COULD get starts with the Dodgers, but as Josiah Gray, Andre Jackson and Michael Grove can all tell you, that really doesn't happen as often as you'd like.

So of course Pepiot would end up as one of the first guys the Dodgers were willing to part with then the opportunity came around. Yet it's still very funny to me that Pepiot ended up being dealt in exchange for another long-haired, hard-throwing top prospect who just hasn't gotten the right opportunity. That was exactly why the Rays dealt for Tyler Glasnow in the first place, in the deal that left the Pirates with three disappointing years of Chris Archer; Glasnow wasn't doing anything in Pittsburgh, and there was still some promise there. Then, when it came time for the Rays to pay Glasnow, they...deal him for someone who's essentially a younger version of him.

That is how the Rays do business. It's an endless carousel of young players who leave at the moment the Rays can no longer exploit them for low pay. It's a lot like Leonardo DiCaprio's house. 

But yes, Ryan Pepiot is the latest smart acquisition by Tampa, and now that he's gotten an open rotation spot he's of course been excellent. He leads the team in WHIP with 0.927, has the second-most strikeouts with 41, and the most wins with 3. Pepiot is a strong, durable, hard-throwing pitcher who knowingly fits perfectly into the gap left by Glasnow's absence. The only worrying detail is whether or not the comebacker that grazed him will limit him going forward. 

And it's good that Pepiot, along with Zack Littell, has revitalized this Tampa rotation, because there's a lot of dead weight elsewhere that isn't moving. The best hitter on the team right now is Ben Rortvedt, and he has no power bonuses. Same with Richie Palacios. The power-hitters, mostly Yandy Diaz and Randy Arozarena, aren't getting much done, and the contact-heavy angle can only work so efficiently if the games are still close. This is still very much small-ball, and when the Orioles, Yankees and Red Sox all have home run hitters, that isn't much. Josh Lowe coming back is good, but how much of an edge will he give this team?

The Rays are at .500, and struggling to stay out of last. There's still a lot that works about this team, but they're clearly struggling to live up to their previous years' reputation. And cloning Tyler Glasnow can only help that so much. 

Coming Tomorrow- No one knew who he was til he set foot on the mound at CitiField. And now he's one of the key figures of a very strange Mets team. 

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