ST. PETERSBURG — The names will remain the same, but it was taking until this morning to finalize the 11-player, three-team trade that will send Wil Myers and Ryan Hanigan to San Diego and bring the Rays five players in return.
The deal was agreed to Wednesday afternoon, but formal completion and the announcement of it was delayed Thursday as the Padres, who had several other deals going, finalized language over aspects of the trade with the Nationals.
The Rays are sending Myers, Hanigan and low-level minor-league pitchers Jose Castillo (to whom they gave a reported $1.55 million bonus in 2012) and Gerardo Reyes to the Padres, and feel they are better for it with the five players they are getting back.
The players are a starting catcher in Rene Rivera, Triple-A right-hander Burch Smith and first-base prospect Jake Bauers from San Diego, and major-league-ready outfielder Steven Souza and left-handed pitching prospect Travis Ott from Washington.
The Nationals are getting two prospects from the Padres, right-hander Joe Ross and, though officially listed as a player to be named, 2014 first-round draft pick shortstop Trea Turner, which may have caused the delay.
Rivera, 31, looks to be the player to have the most impact on the 2015 Rays, replacing Hanigan as their primary catcher.
Until last season, he was something of a career journeyman. He started with the Mariners, who called him up at age 21 and at one point considered him their catcher of the future, then moved on to the Dodgers and Mets organizations, then — after a stint in independent ball — the Yankees and Twins, going five years between big-league appearances.
Rivera took advantage of an opportunity for regular playing time with the Padres last year and posted solid offensive numbers (with a .751 on-base plus slugging percentage) while throwing out 36 percent of basestealers and ranking high on pitch-framing charts. By ESPN's count, former Rays catcher Jose Molina ranked second best and Rivera was fifth.
"I could always catch and throw, but now I understand the pitchers better and I communicate with them better," Rivera told mlb.com in September. "I remember last year in Triple A, talking to manager Pat Murphy, he went straight to the point with me, saying I've got to do a better job of that. 'Spend time with them, it's about them, not you.' I think that was a big step forward for me."
Souza, 25, looks to be the player with the highest upside in the return, a corner outfielder with power and speed who seems to have overcome early-career injury and maturity issues, including a 2010 suspension for performance-enhancing drugs.
A spot on the opening day roster is a possibility, depending on whether the Rays add other bats during the offseason. Souza is coming off an impressive season at Triple-A Syracuse, hitting .350 with 18 homers, 75 RBIs, 26 steals and a 1.022 on-base plus slugging percentage in 96 games, winning MVP in the Triple-A International League.
"I just think he took a major step forward," Nationals manager Matt Williams said at the time.
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The Rays had big expectations when they acquired Myers — plus Jake Odorizzi, Mike Montgomery and Patrick Leonard — two years ago from Kansas City in a blockbuster deal for James Shields and Wade Davis.
But after winning the 2013 American League Rookie of the Year Award with a solid showing following a June promotion, he got off to a poor start last season, then missed three months after fracturing his right wrist and acknowledging his left wrist was sore as well. He didn't do much better after his return, hitting .222 with six homers and 35 RBIs in total over 87 games.
That dropoff in performance led the Rays to consider trading him. In talks with a half-dozen teams during the recent meetings in San Diego, they got the sense they could maximize his value by moving him now.