By: Daniel Satter
First off, Jennings is entering his final year of arbitration and could end up receiving around the same amount of money like last year. Jennings made $3 mil last year and only played in 28 games while accumulating 26 hits with 1 homer and 7 RBIs in 97 at bats. He produced a stat line of .268/.324/.340 and stole 5 bases.
Meanwhile, If Desmond Jennings is kept on the roster and does not end up being traded he will have to compete for a spot in the outfield with Mahtook and Guyer. I still personally think Mahtook should get the starting gig, but he will have to earn the job. So for that, Jennings could be just battling with Guyer for the 4th outfield spot. In fact, Jennings will make more money than Guyer and Mahtook combined. The Rays did say they want to trim the payroll, so Jennings could be on his way out of Tampa.
Now, if you trade Jennings what could you get in return? Honestly Jennings has been hurt throughout his whole baseball career and especially in the pros. So the return amount and quality is not going to be great. The Rays could maybe pick up either a Single-A or Double-A prospect. This deal would be more of a dump the money move.
As for that, the one team that I could see trying to trade for Jennings could be the San Francisco Giants. The Giants are in the National league and could use a starting left fielder or 4th outfielder. Also, with the Giants playing in an outdoor stadium they use real grass over Astro Turf. Astro Turf hurts the outfielder’s knees which Jennings is currently dealing with and could be the main reason why he is always hurt. So maybe switching to real grass for Jennings could jump start his career and end those nagging knee/leg injuries.
In addition, the Giants recently declined Marlon Byrd’s club option ($8 mil) and Nori Aoki’s club option ($5.5 mil). Aoki and Byrd are both older than Jennings and the Giants could use a speedster in the clubhouse to add a new dimension to Bruce Bochy’s lineup. Jennings will be cheaper and if healthy can be a good everyday player. Jennings steals bases, bunts, plays good defense, and could potentially hit 15 to 20 homers a year. Jennings has hidden power in his swing that the Rays saw glimpses of in the 2012 season (13 homers) and 2013 season (14 homers). He does average 15 homers a season according to Baseball-Reference.com.
Now, if the Rays pull the trigger on trading Jennings they could maybe receive the Giants 30th prospect Steven Duggar. Duggar is 22 years old and has plus-plus speed (needs to work on using it) to swipe 20 to 25 bags a season and does play all three outfield spots. The 186th overall pick in the 6th round of the 2015 draft has a big arm to go with his speed in the outfield. Could we see another Kevin Kiermaier in the making? Duggar is a left handed batter who has excellent bat speed and hidden power in his swing (needs to translate the power into the games). Duggar does not mind taking walks. Duggar’s season ended by playing in 58 games, 229 at bats, 67 hits with 12 of them winding up as doubles and 1 triple, 1 homer, 27 RBIs. He stole 6 bags and had a stat line of .293/.390/.367/.756. Duggar played in High Single-A.
Now, if the Rays can sell high on Jennings to the Giants they could try and acquire a young arm in Chase Johnson (Giants 28th best prospect). Johnson was drafted in 2013 in the 3rd round (101st overall). The Cal Poly product is only 23 years old and can either pitch in the rotation or bullpen. He will fit the rotation if he can find his secondary pitches, but if not he can go to the bullpen with his arm strength. His pitching arsenal includes a fastball that sits at 92-94 mph and could reach 96 mph with little effort in his delivery, throws a hard slider that gets a slurve like motion, also throws a changeup that is deadly, but needs to throw it more consistent. Johnson also is working on his windup because he pitched exclusively out of the stretch in college. Since, moving to the windup his pitches are more controllable and he commands the ball better.
In addition, Johnson has progressed well in the Giants farm system and is currently in Double-A. He spent more time in High Single-A this year, but found his way to Double-A. For next season he should start in Double-A. Johnson’s stats from both minor league levels came out combined as a 9-4 record, 2.82 ERA, 23 games and 21 starts, 124.2 innings pitched with 129 strikeouts and 42 walks. He had a whip of 1.23 and gave up only 5 homers (all in Single-A in only 111 innings).
Finally, my prediction is that the Rays trade Jennings to Giants for Steven Duggar. This outfielder for outfielder deal works because you traded away Boog Powell in the Mariners deal and Duggar will replace him in the minors. Also, it is hard to pry away pitching prospects from any team, especially the season Chase Johnson has just produced and how far he has grown in his progression to becoming a big leaguer.