Winter meetings journal: Rays add more infield depth, claim it isn't prelude to a trade

Published Dec. 12, 2017

LAKE BUENA VISTA — The Rays on Tuesday adding their third infielder in the past two weeks would sure look like a precursor to trading front-liners such as 3B Evan Longoria or 2B Brad Miller.

But GM Erik Neander insisted that was not the case and that the trade to get former Padres starting 3B Ryan Schimpf, like previous pickups of Micah Johnson (off waivers) and Joey Wendle (who had been DFA'd), was the unrelated combination of interest and circumstance.

"Just a matter of opportunity," Neander said. "They were all price points that we thought made sense. These are guys that have had, frankly, limited major-league opportunity that we've liked for some time and you never know in a fresh start, fresh environment, fresh place, where things might go from there.

"With our roster being where it is, some of our needs for our position player group filling out a major-league club, it's just something we thought made sense for us. These are each guys individually that can do some different things."

Schimpf, 29, can hit home runs, 34 in 142 games over parts of two seasons in San Diego, his 12.97 AB/HR ratio (minimum 500 plate appearances) ranking behind only ex-Marlin Giancarlo Stanton (11.74) and the Dodgers' Cody Bellinger. But Schimpf also can strike out, 175 times in 527 plate appearances, while posting a .195 career average.

Schimpf is a lefty swinger (like Johnson and Wendle) who can play second, third and the corner outfield spots and has a minor-league option. The Rays gave up INF Deion Tansel, a 2016 32nd-round pick who spent 2017 with short-season Class A Hudson Valley.

Talking a good game

The Rays had extensive discussions on potential trades and free-agent signings, but Neander said "nothing to report, nothing that's particularly close to this point, but those are ongoing, they're active, trying to do everything we can to improve our organization." They have undisclosed offers for closer Alex Colome, with the Cubs, Cardinals, Mets and Rockies (despite signing Brian Shaw on Tuesday) in hottest pursuit. There is also a high volume of interest in RHP Chris Archer, with the Rockies joining the Braves, Brewers, Cardinals, Cubs and Twins atop the list.


• The only big deal of the day was the Yankees cutting payroll by sending 3B Chase Headley and RHP Bryan Mitchell to the Padres for OF Jabari Blash. The bigger news was that the Orioles are discussing offers for star INF Manny Machado. The Cardinals, Phillies, White Sox and Yankees are among many said to be interested.

• Principal owner Stuart Sternberg joined Rays officials at the meetings, as did most of the big-league coaching staff, in part to attend Tuesday's annual dinner with reps of their minor-league affiliates.

• Ex-Rays updates: RHP Tommy Hunter was reportedly close to a two-year deal with the Phillies, who initially were said to be close to signing RHP Addison Reed. … The Cubs signed LHP Drew Smyly to a two-year deal. He'll miss most or all of 2018 after having Tommy John surgery. … Luke Scott, in great shape at 39, is at least talking about playing again, last in the majors in 2013, anywhere in 2015. … RHP Alex Cobb is said to be looking for a four-year deal; some teams have thus far offered only three. … Former pitching coach Jim Hickey's deal with the Cubs is for three years.