The Rays still have work to do and, potentially, deals to make before Wednesday’s 4 p.m. trade deadline.
They plan to be active in their pursuits. And that’s after being plenty busy Sunday, making three deals in which they acquired infielder/outfielder Eric Sogard from Toronto while sending infielder Christian Arroyo and reliever Hunter Wood to Cleveland and reliever Ian Gibaut to Texas.
Here is some background on why they did the deals:
* The Rays are in a good standing to make the playoffs, but not a great position — unlikely to make up the 8 1/2 games by which they trail the AL East leading Yankees and in what looks to be a four or five team battle for the two spots in the one-and-done wild card game. Appealing enough to make some improvements, especially with a relatively soft August schedule, not enough to give up major pieces of the future.
* With MLB switching to the July 31 trade deadline, there is no chance this year to add depth in August, which given the uncertain injury status of infielders Brandon Lowe and Yandy Diaz made the acquisition of Sogard more understandable. Also, the same rule would prevent the Rays from trading players they need to take off the 40-man roster when, they hope, pitchers Anthony Banda and Tyler Glasnow come off the 60-day DL, so this was a chance to get some value now.
* Sogard’s offense will be a welcome addition. His .840 OPS will be one of the best among the current team, and his way of getting there, with a high contact and low strikeout rate, will definitely help given how much the Rays strike out. Plus he has shown he can play anywhere in the infield plus the corner outfield, and we know how much they like the versatility. And at least until Lowe and Diaz come back, and maybe after, Sogard will have room for him to play, some of the time coming at the expense of shortstop Willy Adames, with Joey Wendle sliding to short against at least some right-handed starters.
* The cost for Sogard wasn’t much, two players at the low end of the minors who will be considered lottery ticket types.
* The Rays need bullpen help, so trading Wood was a bit of a surprise. But they have not shown a ton of confidence in him despite his decent ERA. They needed a 40-man roster spot now, and will going forward, and Wood will be out of options next season meaning his spot was in jeopardy anyway. The question is whether they made the right calls in instead keeping Jake Faria and Austin Pruitt, who will be in a similar situation roster wise, but they see as more helpful now anyway.
* Arroyo was considered the prime return in the December 2017 trade of franchise player Evan Longoria (well, after the unloading of most of Longoria’s contract) and a local kid at that. But he hasn’t done much with the Rays, sidelined by injuries (currently with a forearm issue that came up after he was to be optioned) and stymied by inconsistency. Arroyo also will be out of options next season, and the Rays see, potentially, several other right-handed hitting infielders ahead of him - Diaz, Adames, Matt Duffy, Daniel Robertson, Mike Brosseau and possibly prospect Kevin Padlo.
* The Rays like the progress Ruben Cardenas, the outfielder they got back from Cleveland, has made as a pro even though he hasn’t been considered one of the Indians top prospects, and feel his offense has upside potential.
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* Gibaut was deemed expendable last week when the Rays needed a 40-man roster spot for Duffy, and they hoped to get something back, which for now is unclear as the deal was announced as a minor leaguer to be named or cash considerations.