ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays further shaped their bullpen Monday, adding a potentially interesting piece by acquiring groundball specialist Burke Badenhop from the Marlins and tendering a contract to left-hander J.P. Howell while cutting ties with Andy Sonnanstine.
Howell was one of six arbitration-eligible players tendered by the midnight deadline, with outfielder B.J. Upton and pitchers Badenhop, Jeff Niemann, Joel Peralta and David Price.
Badenhop, 28, spent parts of the past four seasons in the majors, compiling a 13-15, 4.34 record. He is a right-hander with a three-quarters delivery whose strength is getting batters to hit his sinker into the ground: His 58.5 percent ground ball rate was 10th highest of all pitchers who worked 60 innings last season.
Badenhop said he was surprised to be traded and to end up with the Rays — "It was kind of different," he said — but liked what he heard from executive VP Andrew Friedman. "Andrew said with the way they run their defense and defensive positioning and stuff, that he thinks it's going to work wonders for a guy like myself," he said. "I'm basically trying to put the ball on the ground and let my defense do some work."
Howell's status was in question as rejoined the Rays in May after missing the 2010 season following shoulder surgery but struggled, going 2-3 with a 6.16 ERA over 46 appearances. But Friedman said they are encouraged Howell — who made $1.1 million after being non-tendered and re-signed last December — can regain his form: "We're big believers in who J.P. is and what he's done to put himself in position to have a good 2012 season. J.P. is one of those guys you bet on.''
The Rays didn't have much use for Sonnanstine as the 2011 season went on, sending him to the minors in July after he made only 14 appearances. Friedman acknowledged his past work but said there was no longer an "optimal fit" and "we felt like there would be better opportunities for him elsewhere.''
Sonnanstine, who made $912,500, finished 2011 with an 0-2, 5.55 record.
Badenhop, who made $750,000 last season, said he wasn't sure what to think when the Marlins called Monday, but he assumed he wasn't being dumped for financial reasons. "We knew they couldn't cry poor anymore after the last couple weeks," he said.
The Rays got him at a relatively low cost: minor-league catcher Jake Jefferies, a 2008 third-round pick who has played only six games above Class A. He hit .238 in 2011, spending most of the season at Class A Charlotte.
Around the majors
BREWERS ADD SLUGGER: Milwaukee agreed to terms with free agent third baseman Aramis Ramirez, agent Paul Kinzer said. The Brewers are expected to lose first baseman Prince Fielder through free agency and may be without NL MVP Ryan Braun for 50 games after he tested positive for a banned substance.
PHILS-JAYS TRADE: The Phillies traded outfielder Ben Francisco to the Blue Jays for minor-league left-hander Frank Gailey.
PIRATES-BREWERS TRADE: Pittsburgh acquired third baseman Casey McGehee from Milwaukee for right-handed reliever Jose Veras.
CARDINALS: Shortstop Rafael Furcal, acquired at the July trade deadline, agreed to a $14 million, two-year contract.
D'BACKS: Free-agent right-handed reliever Takashi Saito agreed to terms.
MARLINS: Free-agent outfielder Aaron Rowand signed a minor-league deal.
METS: Team owners recently got a $40 million loan to help with cash flow, a year after getting a $25 million loan from Major League Baseball.
Information from Times wires was used in this report. Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]