The Tampa Bay Rays made a big splash on Tuesday as the team added a pair of impact players in Heath Bell and Ryan Hanigan via a three-way trade with Arizona and Cincinnati. 

Though Bell, a three-time All-Star, is the biggest name involved in this deal, Hanigan will prove to be the pivotal name in this transaction. 

Yes, the 33-year-old is coming off a pretty dreadful season offensively as the former Reds catcher batted just .198, which was a career-low by a sizable margin. 

But Hanigan fills a critical void in Tampa Bay as the Rays were clearly looking for an upgrade behind the plate, and the former Rollins College star certainly fits that bill. 

And, after signing a three-year, $10.75 million contract extension earlier this year, Hanigan wasn’t too expensive for the usually conservative Rays.

Until today, the Rays’ best option at catcher was Jose Molina, and though the 38-year-old offers a lot defensively, Hanigan definitely appears to have a much higher ceiling at the plate.

During the last six seasons, Molina’s batted above .250 just once, and given his age, that trend isn’t likely to reverse now.

On the other hand, last season was the first in which Hanigan has failed to eclipse .250 offensively, so assuming 2013 was something of an aberration, he’ll provide a boost for the Rays in that regard.

In addition, even if Joe Maddon opts to use both catchers depending on the opponent, Hanigan‘s presence in the lineup will alleviate at least some of the pressure on James Loney, Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist from the offensive side of the ball. 

The trade brings a much-needed change of scenery for Hanigan, who had effectively been replaced as the Reds’ starting catcher—the club seemed intent on handing the job to Devin Mesoraco, a former first-rounder.

While Mesoraco is far from a proven commodity in the MLB at this stage, the 25-year-old was impressive enough while Hanigan was sidelined twice due to injury in 2013 that the Reds felt comfortable making this deal. 

But Hanigan‘s got the talent to be an impact player for the Rays, who will be looking to build on their postseason appearance this past season, and that’s ultimately why Maddon‘s squad acquired him. 

Just a year ago, Hanigan posted three RBI in four postseason appearances for the Reds, and that’s certainly one reason why Tampa Bay’s confident he’ll bounce back from his injury-plagued 2013 season. 

No, this isn’t the sort of deal that will lift the Rays into the conversation regarding which teams are favored to win the World Series in 2014, but it’s clearly a step in the right direction. 


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