The Rays fortified their bullpen for the impending pennant race. The White Sox added to their haul of prospects. The Rays acquired veteran reliever Dan Jennings from the White Sox in exchange for first baseman Casey Gillaspie on Thursday morning. The deal is the sixth trade involving the White Sox in the last 14 days. Gillaspie is the 10th prospect they’ve received in that time. The Rays, meanwhile, add to a bullpen that entered the day 19th in MLB with a 4.34 ERA.
The Rays drafted Gillaspie 20th overall in the 2014 draft out of Wichita State and moved him quickly, giving him his first Triple-A assignment two years after he was drafted. While the switch-hitting Gillaspie had little trouble in the lower minors, his first full year in Triple-A has been a massive struggle. He ranks 67th out of 73 qualified hitters in the International League in batting (.227), 64th in on-base percentage (.296) and 59th in slugging (.357) while earning consistent below-average marks defensively at first base from evaluators. Gillaspie was drafted to be a power hitter, but scouts have been highly critical of his swing from both sides of the plate, pointing to a general lack of athleticism, stiffness in his swing and inability to get the barrel out or elevate against good pitching. He spent most of this season hitting sixth or seventh in the order at Triple-A Durham. It was only last year Gillaspie hit 34 doubles and 18 homers in the upper minors, so the White Sox will hope he can retool his swing and rediscover his prior success.
The 2008 ninth-rounder out of Nebraska has carved out a niche as a quality reliever in the big leagues, posting a 2.86 ERA in 281 career appearances. Jennings is a sinker-slider lefty who specializes in dealing with same-side hitters. He has held lefties to a .169/.286/.211 line this year compared to .250/.311/.446 against righties. Jennings will get wild at times and doesn’t strike out an inordinate number of hitters, but gets the job done against lefties and is valuable in that situational relief role.