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 [email protected]. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.