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Rays designate fading prospect Hak-Ju Lee for assignment

Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Hak-Ju Lee during a pre Spring Training workout at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Fla. on Friday, Feb. 20, 2015.
Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Hak-Ju Lee during a pre Spring Training workout at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Fla. on Friday, Feb. 20, 2015.
Published Sep. 2, 2015

Former top prospect Lee designated for assignment

BALTIMORE — SS Hak-Ju Lee came to the Rays as the key piece — more so than RHP Chris Archer — of the five-player package they got from the Cubs in the January 2011 deal for RHP Matt Garza.

"He was the king of the trade," Archer said, "and I was the bishop."

But Tuesday, the Rays gave up control of Lee, designating him for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster for third C Luke Maile, giving them 10 days to trade or release him or (they hope) pass the former top prospect through waivers.

"We are managing a full roster right now, and it forces difficult decisions like this one," baseball operations president Matt Silverman said. "While Hak-Ju has battled through difficult circumstances the past couple years, he's still a young ballplayer with room for continued development."

Lee, 24, has not been the same dynamic speedy and slick-fielding player since sustaining a serious left knee injury in an April 2013 game at Triple-A Durham, hitting just .212 in the past two seasons with the Bulls.

"He was as sure of a big-league player when he was 19, 20, 21, that I've ever seen," Archer said. "Just mainly because of his ability to play defense and he could really control the bat. … I think that's what can be tricky about trading for prospects all the time. At 19 in low (Class) A you can be literally the best player in the league, and four-five years later you can be out of baseball. He had injuries and stuff that slowed him down, took away from his game maybe a little bit, but you just don't know."

Marc Topkin, Times staff writer

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