NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The Rays are looking for ways to improve their bullpen, and that included spending $100,000 and a roster spot in Thursday's Rule 5 draft to take a chance on RHP Kevin Gadea, a 22-year-old who has not pitched above Class A.
In addition to Gadea and new C Wilson Ramos, Rays officials headed home from the winter meetings with "a lot of good possibilities" to trade one of their starters.
"It was definitely active," senior VP Chaim Bloom said. "It's hard to anticipate timing, it's hard to really know where all this is going to end up, but we obviously have a number of talented pitchers in our rotation, and I think we had a lot of conversation on pretty much all of them."
That the Rays didn't trade one during the meetings was not surprising; they tend to do more business in the weeks, or sometimes just days, after. Their to-do list also includes adding an outfielder/DH type — or both — from a glutted market that could yield some interesting leftovers, maybe even a big bat such as Jose Bautista.
"What this week served to do I think was really provide some clarity on some things and give us a much better idea of the landscape," Bloom said. "There's still a lot of dominoes to fall, potentially, with us and certainly around the industry, but the conversation this week was really helpful. We got, I think, a much better idea of what may be available to us."
Gadea, who just turned 22, seems a long shot to make the jump to the majors, but the Rays decided the converted infielder from Nicaragua who split 2016 between Seattle rookie-level and Midwest League teams, was worth the gamble, noting his fastball-changeup combo and strike-throwing ability.
"He missed a lot of bats," baseball development director Peter Bendix said. "We'll take him into spring training and kind of see what we have. He's a young guy, and there's a lot of long-term potential there."
Gadea has to be kept on the big-league roster or offered back to the Mariners then put through waivers. The biggest challenge in making the jump, Bendix said, might be Gadea's confidence in getting big-league hitters out. Overall in 2016 the 6-foot-5 Gadea was 4-1, 2.36 in 68⅔ over 15 games, striking out 95 and walking only 14.
"He's a prospect, for sure," Mariners assistant GM Jeff Kingston said. "He came on strong this year for us. … He's been durable."
MORE RULE 5: After seeing OFs Tyler Goeddel and Joey Rickard taken last year, farm director Mitch Lukevics said they were pleased — having added eight top prospects — not to lose anyone this year. In the minor-league portion, the Rays lost RHP Jared Mortensen, who wasn't going to move up to Triple A anyway, and took $24,000 fliers on two injured pitchers: 2012 Yankees first-round pick Ty Hensley, who is recovering from his second Tommy John surgery and hasn't pitched since 2014, and Phillies Class A RHP Jairo Munoz, who had elbow surgery.
ROSTER SHUFFLE: The two-year, $12.5 million deal with Ramos could be official as soon as today. With Gadea filling the last open spot on the roster, the Rays will have to make room elsewhere, perhaps from the group of RHPs Dylan Floro, Eddie Gambo or Ryan Garton.
CLOSING TIME: No officials with the Rays, nor other teams, were surprised when LHP Aroldis Chapman decided Wednesday to rejoin the Yankees, getting $82 million over five years. "This is nothing new," Bloom said. "This is life in the AL East." Chapman's decision left RHP Kenley Jansen as the last premier closer on the market, with the Dodgers, Marlins and Nationals all bidding. Whoever gets left out could engage further with the Rays about RHP Alex Colome, though they are unlikely to move him, and the White Sox on David Robertson. … The Cardinals were reported to be near a deal with free agent OF Dexter Fowler.