ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays are intent on contending for a postseason spot this season and one way to do that, according to general manager Erik Neander, is to become more diversified and increase competition for roster spots and playing time.
With that in mind, the Rays on Wednesday traded left-hander Drew Smyly to the Mariners for outfielder Mallex Smith, 23, and two prospects — shortstop Carlos Vargas, 17, and lefty Ryan Yarbrough, 24.
Smith is the second outfielder added this week, joining free agent Colby Rasmus, whose signing will be announced when he passes his physical.
"He's a very dynamic player," Neander said of Smith. "He's an impact athlete."
The two join a mix that includes Kevin Kiermaier, Steven Souza Jr., Corey Dickerson, Mikie Mahtook and Nick Franklin.
But Smith, who stole 16 bases in 24 attempts during his rookie season last year with the Braves and 230 in 399 minor-league games, brings a skill set that differs from everyone in the crowd not named Kiermaier.
"Looking at Mallex, this is a guy who is a very capable base-stealer that's an impact athlete," Neander said. "The speed and the game he plays, he's very dynamic. It adds value on both sides of the ball.
"I think to diversify the group, add competition and to do it with someone who's young and still on the way up is something that excites us."
Smith, a Tallahassee native who was traded earlier Wednesday from Atlanta to Seattle, reached the big leagues last season for the first time. A broken left thumb limited him to 72 games. He hit .238 with a .316 on-base percentage and a .365 slugging percentage. He made the bulk of his starts in centerfield.
When asked if Smith could earn a spot on the opening day roster, Neander said, "I think as we sit here today we still have some time to go this winter, but he does have major-league experience, and it's a skill set that diversifies our group a little bit."
Smyly, 27, became expendable due to Tampa Bay's depth in the rotation and the fact he was projected to make $6.9 million this season through arbitration. Acquired from Detroit at the 2014 trade deadline in the David Price deal, Smyly was 15-15 with a 3.95 ERA in 49 starts with the Rays, including 7-12 with a 4.88 ERA last season.
Yarbrough was the Southern League pitcher of the year at Double A Jackson after going 12-4 with a 2.95 ERA in 25 starts.
"He's not far off from helping us at the big-league level," Neander said.
Vargas hit .242 with a .344 on-base percentage and a .391 slugging percentage in 62 games with the Dominican Summer League Mariners. He scored 41 runs, hit seven home runs and drove in 35.
"The type of return is something we felt was a better fit for our club in the big picture," Neander said.
The Rays also claimed outfielder Jason Coats off waivers Wednesday from the White Sox and designated right-hander Dylan Floro for assignment. Coats hit .200 in 58 plate appearances as a rookie in 2016.