Tampa Bay Rays lose RHP Burch Smith in Rule 5 draft, keep Nick Ciuffo

Burch Smith was acquired from the Padres but missed two seasons arm issues. [Times photo]
Burch Smith was acquired from the Padres but missed two seasons arm issues. [Times photo]

The Rays lost RHP Burch Smith in Thursday's Rule 5 draft but were happy to see him get an opportunity in Kansas City.

They also were pleased to hang on to C Nick Ciuffo, who was left exposed but not selected.

Smith, 27, was acquired from the Padres as part of the 11-player Wil Myers-Steven Souza Jr. deal in December 2014, but missed two full seasons battling back from an arm injury, including Tommy John surgery and other issues, making  a solid 2017 return and an impressive showing in the Arizona Fall League.

Smith was taken with the No. 6 pick by the Mets for the $100,000 fee then flipped to the Royals.

"We knew there was a chance we were going to lose him," Rays senior VP Chaim Bloom said. "Obviously we would have liked to have kept him. But another thing we don't want to lose sight of, we were really happy for Burch to get this opportunity. … Even though we would have liked to have had him in our camp and given him that opportunity here, we're still going to be pulling for him elsewhere."

The Rays knew they could lose Ciuffo, their 2013 first-round pick who played last season at Double-A Montgomery, hitting .245 with 7 homers, 42 RBIs and a .704 OPS.

Ciuffo is more advanced defensively, and there was a chance a team willing to carry a third catcher may have taken him under the Rule 5 provisions of having to keep him in the majors all season.

"We said when we left him off that it's a calculated gamble," Bloom said. "We like Nick and we think Nick is a major-league prospect, we were just taking a gamble that it wasn't his time yet.

"We were hoping to be able to keep him here to be  able to give him opportunity in our system to keep progressing he did make strides this past year and we're really happy we were able to keep him."

In the minor-league portion of the draft, the Rays lost INF Riley Unroe, their 2013 second-round pick plus OF Angel Moreno (17th by Cardinals) and C Rafelin Lorenzo (30th, Pirates). They took RHP Francisco German with the 14th pick from the Tigers.

Unroe, taken 15th by the Angels, had received a $1-million bonus but was yet to get past the Double-A level, and didn't play particularly well there, hitting .224 with a .651 OPS.

"Riley has had some tough times," said Jeff McLerran, Rays assistant director, minor-league operations. "We still think pretty highly of him to the point we think he can play but we've got guys we think may be better. We've made a lot of deals over the last couple years that have brought in players in similar territory. …

"The performance hasn't quite matched the tools to date. We think it will great for Riley to get a fresh start."

McLerran said German, 21, is a young pitcher with "a quick loose arm" headed to short-season ball at the low end of the minors.

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