Rays Tales: Executives worked to the last second of trade deadline

Many of Tampa Bay’s acquisitions came within the final minutes, but team officials had rehearsed different scenarios
Former Milwaukee Brewer Jesus Aguilar could be a huge pickup for the Rays if he returns to his 2018 form. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Former Milwaukee Brewer Jesus Aguilar could be a huge pickup for the Rays if he returns to his 2018 form. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Published August 4

ST. PETERSBURG — More than a dozen Rays officials were gathered in a conference room at the Tropicana Field working somewhat frenetically on multiple deals as Wednesday’s 4 p.m. trade deadline neared.

They didn’t know how many, if any, would be consummated.

At 3:52 p.m., when manager Kevin Cash checked in from Boston with team president Matt Silverman, there was nothing new to report.

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Earlier in the day, the Rays acquired a trade to get Jesus Aguilar from Milwaukee, and talked several times with the Mets about starter Zach Wheeler, with prospect Jesus Sanchez among those in play, but didn’t get anywhere.

But by 4 p.m., in what several execs decribed as the most hectic deadline crush they could recall, the Rays completed medical reviews, finalized agreements and sent the required emails to make four trades.

The biggest? Bringing in Marlins pitchers Nick Anderson and Trevor Richards for Ryne Stanek and Sanchez.

Former Marlins pitcher Trevor Richards joined the Rays organization in a trade this week. He'll start with the Triple-A Durham Bulls. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Former Marlins pitcher Trevor Richards joined the Rays organization in a trade this week. He'll start with the Triple-A Durham Bulls. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

The Rays had made their interest in Anderson known, and the Marlins were seeking high-end prospects like Sanchez so there was a framework.

The Rays sought to expand the deal in different ways, looking to get Richards as starter depth they didn’t find elsewhere, and among several iterations Stanek was added in. Time spent running through trade scenarios during the days leading up to the deadline paid off.

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The execution of the staff, each with a specific duty amid the chaos, allowed them to make it work with seconds to spare.

In less pressurized late-minute deals, they also shipped out reliever Adam Kolarek, cleared a roster spot in dealing fringe prospect Joe McCarthy and added catching depth by getting Rocky Gale.

“I was pretty surprised,’’ Cash said. “It all came quick.’’

The Rays, who added Blue Jays infielder Eric Sogard in one of three trades they made July 25, felt pretty good about what they accomplished. They deepened their injury-damaged lineup and improved their bullpen (by addition and subtraction) without giving up too much. Here is a review:

Trade rumblings

Former Rangers reliever Peter Fairbanks now pitches for the Rays' Triple-A club in Durham.  (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)
Former Rangers reliever Peter Fairbanks now pitches for the Rays' Triple-A club in Durham. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)

Based on a projected ERA of 3.57, mlb.com projects the Rays to have the best bullpen of the contenders going forward. … The price for Sogard will be two pitchers from the low level of the Rays system the Jays pick by Sept. 1, one each from two agreed-on lists of two. … Much of the bullpen purge was to clear current/future roster space with minimal return, but the Rays are high on Niko Hulsizer, the Class A outfielder acquired from the Dodgers for Kolarek. In 83 games, Hulsizer has a .265 average, 23 doubles, 20 homers, 67 RBIs and a .930 OPS, though 108 strikeouts. … Plus, if the Rays need another funky throwing lefty specialist they have Hoby Milner at Triple-A. … Sanchez was the only top prospect the Rays were willing to move; Wander Franco, Brendan McKay, Vidal Brujan and Matt Liberatore weren’t getting talked about. Baseball America tabbed Sanchez Miami’s No. 2 prospect, and he homered twice Friday for Triple-A New Orleans. … The Brewers sent Jake Faria to Triple-A, while Hunter Wood is in the majors with the Indians. … Among reasons for trading Stanek: A 2.71 ERA and 1.060 WHIP (walks and hits per inning) in 56 games as an opener; 4.73 and 1.458 in relief. And they shed the uncertainty of his opener-influenced arbitration case in 2021. … Faria tried to quickly ingratiate himself with Milwaukee-area fans, tweeting an Aaron Rodgers gif with the text “Being with the @brewers is cool because I’m a Packers fan too’’ … Reliever Peter Fairbanks, acquired in a mid-July deal for Nick Solak, has been clocked at 100 mph with Durham. … MLB.com ranked the Rays-Marlins swap second on its list of most important trades behind only the Astros getting Zack Greinke, saying calling it “one of the more quietly fascinating deals.” Aguilar-for-Faria was No. 4. … Bench coach Matt Quatraro, and to a lesser degree, Cash, know Aguilar from their time in the Indians organization, where he started in 2008 at 18: “He’s a guy that grinded through the minor leagues and has always hit,’’ Cash said. … ESPN said the Sogard acquisition “could be one of those under-the-radar deals that proves to be a key acquisition.’’

Grading the Rays moves

Here’s what a couple national experts thought of the Rays dealings:

Jim Bowden, The Athletic, C+: The Rays were extremely busy at the deadline, wheeling and dealing for affordable players who fit their budget. They desperately needed a right-handed power bat, and they got one in their deal with the Brewers for Jesús Aguilar. Aguilar was having a down year, but is just one year removed from 35 home runs and 109 runs batted in. They took a chance on a couple of good arms from the Marlins in Nick Anderson and Trevor Richards and acquired a solid middle infielder in Eric Sogard.

Emma Baccellieri, SI.com, B+: Not flashy, but solid enough. The Rays were able to buy low on Jesus Aguilar; if he begins looking more like himself again (and there’s statistical reason to believe that he will), they could certainly benefit from his bat. Trevor Richards is useful as a traditional starter, of which the team currently doesn’t have very many, and Nick Anderson is a quality reliever. Giving up Ryne Stanek does feel a bit odd, but in all, they gained some decent additions—which looks especially good next to the inaction from Boston and New York.

Remember these names

If the Rays bullpen continues to struggle, here’s a partial list of other relievers who were traded elsewhere and in theory they could have acquired: Joe Biagini (to Astros); Jake Diekman (to A’s); Sam Dyson (to Twins); Carl Edwards Jr. (to Padres); Shane Greene (to Braves); Roenias Elias (to Nationals); Daniel Hudson (to Nationals); Chris Martin (to Braves); Mark Melancon (to Braves); David Phelps (to Cubs); Drew Pomeranz (to Brewers); Sergio Romo (to Twins); Hunter Strickland (to Nationals); Dan Winkler (to Giants).

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Also, the six relievers they traded: Jake Faria, Ian Gibaut, Adam Kolarek, Casey Sadler, Ryne Stanek, Hunter Wood

Rays rumblings

The Rays aren’t the only team seeking a new stadium with a roving eye; the D’backs have had discussions with the Las Vegas suburb of Henderson, which said in a statement it also would “welcome conversations with other major league franchises that may be considering a move.’’ … St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman told Times Staff Writer Josh Solomon he’s “open” to the idea of using the downtown waterfront Al Lang site for baseball again (as the Rays may propose if they proceed with the Montreal sharing plan) but the rebuilt stadium would “need to stay within the footprint” of the current facility, which may be tricky. … Last Sunday’s Sogard deal turned out to more important than expected because the Rays didn’t know at the time Joey Wendle was having a wrist issue that would send him back to the injured list. … With Stanek gone, the Rays will mix and match on openers, using Andrew Kittredge and Diego Castillo among others. … The Rays will have a roster/playing time crunch when Yandy Diaz, Brandon Lowe and Wendle are all healthy, but GM Erik Neander puts it in the good problem to have category. … Boston broadcaster/Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley was plenty impressed by the Rays after last week’s sweep, saying “Man, if you guys had (injured pitchers Blake) Snell and (Tyler) Glasnow, geez!” … Moving the two-game interleague series with the Marlins to the weekend and having Friday off was an interesting idea, but would have worked better with the earlier Dodgers visit. … Fox Sports’ Kevin Burkhardt, who is calling 20-some Rays games this year, tweeted after Houston acquired Zack Greinke: “The Astros just won the World Series.’’ … Ex-Ray Jake Bauers was sent down by the Indians in their post-deadline roster shuffle, having hit .233 with 11 homers, 39 RBIs and a .687 OPS.

Dante Bichette watched his son Bo Bichette play during his teen years. Now his son will play at Tropiciana Field where he once took the field as an MLB player. TIMES FILES
Dante Bichette watched his son Bo Bichette play during his teen years. Now his son will play at Tropiciana Field where he once took the field as an MLB player. TIMES FILES

… Dante Bichette played six games at the Trop, going 8-for-24 with one homer; son Bo, the Lakewood High prospect, debuts Monday with the Jays. … Trevor Bauer was reportedly only fined for his long toss over the centerfield fence last Sunday; in 2009 then Tigers Fernando Rodney threw a ball from mound into the Trop press box after the final out and was suspended three games by MLB. … Tommy Pham a) is lobbying for a chance to fill in as an infielder and b) doesn’t like sitting out when nicked up. “Tommy wants to play every day,’’ Cash said. “If Tommy has a broken ankle he wants to play.”

Contact Marc Topkin at mtopkin@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Rays

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