The Tampa Bay Rays have acquired C/1B Christian Bethancourt from the Oakland Athletics in exchange for OF Cal Stevenson and RHP Christian Fernandez.
The lowly A’s offense just got even worse, and that is exactly how Oakland management wants it. The last place team signed Bethancourt in Spring Training to a minor league deal and he has surpassed expectations. While his overall numbers are nothing too special, he can play two positions, one of which is catcher, and has crushed the ball.
In return for what was a free player just months ago, the A’s got two minor leaguers. Stevenson is an older prospect, originally drafted by Toronto. He was dealt to Houston in 2019 with Aaron Sanchez and Joe Biagini for Derek Fisher, then to Tampa Bay six months later for Austin Pruitt. He reached AAA this year, but has never slugged the ball at the minor league level. Still, his OBP is very good at the highest level of the minors. Fernandez is splitting starting and relief duties at Single-A this year while striking everyone out.
Fernandez, 22, has a 2.79 ERA with 87 strikeouts and a 1.155 WHIP in 58 innings this year. In his minor league career he has a 3.79 ERA with 286 strikeouts and a 1.255 WHIP in 263.2 innings pitched.
Stevenson, 25, has two home runs with nine stolen bases, a .376 OBP, and a .729 OPS in 203 Plate Appearances. In his MiLB career he has 18 homers with 60 stolen bases, a .407 OBP, and an OPS of .818.
For a contending team, the Rays’ offense has been mostly abysmal this season. While first baseman Ji-Man Choi is not the problem, the Rays love their platoons. The right-handed hitting Bethancourt has a .733 OPS and a 106 OPS+ against left-handed pitching this year. He is also hitting the ball as hard as possible. Bethancourt has an average exit velocity of 91.9 mph with a .477 xwOBACON this year. Despite having just a .385 slugging, Bethancourt has an expected slugging of .570. The Rays see that he could start a positive regression soon. Plus, he has started 12 games at catcher this season. Tampa Bay has had severe catching issues with Mike Zunino out for most of 2022.
Bethancourt, 30, has hit four home runs with four stolen bases, a .298 OBP, and a .683 OPS in 182 Plate Appearances this year. In his MLB career, Bethancourt has 12 home runs with seven stolen bases, a .264 OBP, and a .598 OPS in 217 games played.