Rays GM Erik Neander explains reasoning behind acquiring Chris Mazza, Jeffrey Springs from Red Sox

On Wednesday morning, the Red Sox traded left-hander Jeffrey Springs, right-hander Chris Mazza, and $100,000 in cash considerations to the Rays in exchange for catching prospect Ronaldo Hernandez and infield prospect Nick Sogard.

Both Springs and Mazza had just been designated for assignment by the Sox, so it came as somewhat of a surprise that Boston was able to acquire a highly-touted prospect such as Hernandez — formerly Tampa Bay’s No. 13 prospect according to Baseball America — for two pitchers they were surely prepared to outright or part ways with for nothing in return.

Having said that, why would the Rays strike a deal with their division rival that seemingly strengthens that rival’s minor-league pipeline in exchange for Springs and Mazza, who combined to yield 36 runs (32 earned) in 50 1/3 innings pitched a season ago?

Tampa Bay’s general manager, and Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom’s friend and former colleague, Erik Neander explained the process behind that decision recently.

“This guy is a really talented player and a great person,” Neander said of Hernandez when speaking with reporters via video conference Wednesday night. “I think for us, it’s a situation where it was probably more about the two guys that we’re bringing in. It’s safe to say that in Mazza and Springs, both are talented, we have more optimism than their 2020 ERA’s would suggest. We think they are players that — Mazza in more of a length capacity, Springs in a shorter relief capacity, but can get stretched a little bit — we think are going to be additive to our group and help us win.

“Ultimately, the track records underneath those guys is not extensive by any means, obviously,” he continued. “But, forward-looking on both of them, we’re optimistic that they are better than they’ve been and are players that are going to help us. And with respect to Ronaldo, he’s a good, young talent, and we wish him nothing but the best, certainly. He’s gone about his business with us the right way and is going to continue to develop into being a major-league player one day.”

Mazza, 31, owns a lifetime 5.05 ERA and 4.00 FIP over 18 appearances (six starts) and 46 1/3 major-league innings between the Red Sox and Mets since 2019.

Last season with Boston, the California native ranked in the 83rd percentile among qualified big-league pitchers in regards to exit velocity and ranked in the 8th percentile in regards to hard-hit percentage, so that ability to limit hard contact must be a part of Mazza’s game the Rays find appealing.

Springs, meanwhile, owns a lifetime 5.42 ERA and 4.66 FIP over 59 appearances (two starts) and 84 2/3 innings pitched between the Red Sox and Rangers since 2018.

Last season with Boston, the 28-year-old southpaw ranked also ranked in the 83rd percentile among qualified big-league pitchers in regards to exit velocity while ranking in the 95th percentile in regards to whiff rate.

On top of that, both Mazza and Springs have at least one minor-league option remaining, so Tampa Bay would have the ability to send each of them down this coming season without worry if necessary.

This is the first trade the Red Sox have completed with the Rays since Bloom took over Boston’s baseball operations department a little less than 16 months ago.

“It was different. I think this was our first one, so I told him, ‘You’re making this one easy. Trying to throw you a softball the way it’s perceived. So go ahead, enjoy it,'” Neander said jokingly of his conversations leading up to the trade with Bloom. “It is what it is. We have a good relationship. There’s a lot of trust there. I think that helps cut through a lot of the negotiations that usually take place…. It was different, but it’s been over a year. We’ve grown used to these roles we’re in, and it was nice to work with each other to agree to a trade.”

(Thank you to the Tampa Bay Rays for providing BloggingtheRedSox.com with Erik Neander’s full video conference from Wednesday)

(Picture of Erik Neander: Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images)