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Rays and Mariners: a baseball bromance

PORT CHARLOTTE — Is there something going on between the Rays and Mariners?

Of the 65 players walking around Rays camp, 12 — nearly 20 percent — were formerly with Seattle, including eight (plus two minor-leaguers) acquired in four trades within the past 16 months.

"We're the Tampa Bay Mariners," said reliever Danny Farquhar, shipped southeast in November 2015. "We should get shirts."

While laughing off the clubhouse jokes about a baseball bromance between the front offices, both general managers — Seattle's Jerry DiPoto and Tampa Bay's Erik Neander — say a good working relationship is part of the reason they've done so much business together (including three other trades when DiPoto previously ran the Angels).

"It's a good group going back to (former baseball chief) Andrew Friedman, and I do just enjoy talking baseball with them," DiPoto said. "We may have a half-hour phone call and five minutes revolves around the players we're discussing."

There is more to the commonality, such as the combination of similarities in the ways they evaluate players and differences in their stages of roster construction that matched up their shopping lists for everything from established big-leaguers to low-level prospects.

"I think it comes down to a high level of trust between our organizations, and that leads to a very open, free-flowing dialogue about players," Neander said. "Our player needs have also lined up well; Seattle has had players that we thought would be particularly good fits for us, and vice versa."

Having so many former Seattle players has some benefits.

When Lakeland-born lefty Ryan Yarbrough got dealt to his hometown team in mid January, he quickly called former Double-A Jackson teammate Andrew Kittredge, who had gone through the same process a couple of months earlier.

"He was like, 'You're going to get a bunch of phone calls, but I've got all this info since I've been through it, so here's what to expect,' " Yarbrough said. "That definitely made it a lot easier."

And when catcher Jesus Sucre walked into the Rays clubhouse after an early February trade, he had the immediate comfort of familiarity with five of the pitchers. "It was so funny, like Farquhar said, 'the Tampa Bay Mariners,' " Sucre said. "It's crazy."

Marc Topkin can be reached at Follow @TBTimes_Rays.

The Tampa Bay Mariners

How the players got here from Seattle:

INF/OF Nick Franklin

July 31, 2014 trade, part of three-team deal that sent LHP David Price to Detroit

RHP Erasmo Ramirez

March 31, 2015 trade, for LHP Mike Montgomery

RHP Danny Farquhar

INF Brad Miller

1B Logan Morrison

Nov. 5, 2015 trade, for RHP Nathan Karns, OF Boog Powell, LHP C.J. Riefenhauser

INF Dalton Kelly

RHP Andrew Kittredge

(and RHP Dylan Thompson)

Nov. 18, 2016 trade, for INF/OF Taylor Motter, INF Richie Shaffer

RHP Kevin Gadea

Dec. 8, 2016 Rule 5 draft selection

OF Mallex Smith

LHP Ryan Yarbrough

(and INF Carlos Vargas)

Jan. 11, 2017 trade, for LHP Drew Smyly

INF Rickie Weeks

Feb. 4, 2017 free agent signee; played for Seattle in 2015

C Jesus Sucre

Feb. 8, 2017 trade, for cash/player to be named

Good to know

. Dalton Kelly earned an invite to big-league camp by winning the Mariners' seasonlong bracket-style contest among minor-leaguers for most PTPAs (productive team plate appearances) while playing at Class A Clinton in his first full minor-league season, and the Rays agreed to honor it.

. The Mariners asked Atlanta all winter about Mallex Smith but were completing a deal to instead get Jarrod Dyson from Kansas City (for former Rays RHP Nathan Karns) when the Braves finally agreed, so they sent Smith to the Rays in the Drew Smyly deal.

. RHP Dylan Thompson, a 20-year-old with just 311/3 pro innings who was part of the Taylor Motter/Richie Shaffer trade, might have the highest ceiling among the acquired prospects. Carlos Vargas, 17, was a top-20 international signee in 2015. Kevin Gadea, Kelly, Andrew Kittredge and Ryan Yarbrough also have not been in the majors.

. Nick Franklin, Brad Miller, Smith, Rickie Weeks and Yarbrough all grew up in Florida — Franklin and Weeks attended Lake Brantley High, Miller Orlando Olympia, Smith Tallahassee Rickards, Yarbrough Winter Haven All Saints. Smith and Yarbrough played together at Sante Fe College in Gainesville.

. Yarbrough, the Double-A Southern League's top 2016 pitcher, has plenty of local ties, growing up a Rays fan, having his mom live now in Largo and other family in St. Petersburg.

Marc Topkin, Times staff writer

Rays and Mariners: a baseball bromance 02/24/17 [Last modified: Friday, February 24, 2017 10:42pm]
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