HOUSTON — There was a lot of work that went into the Rays getting here, to the postseason, for the first time in six years.
Much of it is obvious and evident. The way the players played these last six-plus months, the coaches coached, the manager managed, the conditioning staff conditioned, the athletic training staff trained, the front office front officed.
But there is another element to their success and return to prominence, some of which goes back years, as early as 2014, and was done out of the spotlight, in the trades they made to assemble the current roster.
The identifying of players who could help by the stats and analytics group, the observations and recommendations by Kevin Ibach’s pro scouting staff, the negotiating by top executives to make the deals, some difficult and unpopular, the further developing of some acquisitions by the minor-league staff, the acclimating to the Rays way of doing things by manager Kevin Cash and his coaches.
Of the 28 players on the Rays active rosters for the wild-card game and division series, 19 were acquired by trade. And nine more of the other 13 who were on the season-ending roster or injured list. So 28 of the 41 overall.
That’s a lot for any team, and especially one that prioritizes player development for multiple reasons, including financial benefits. But it also shows how the Rays are willing to be adaptive and creative in acquiring, and upgrading, their talent.
Making deals and churning the roster has been part of the process since the Stuart Sternberg group took over the team in 2006, most notably flipping older, higher-paid players for prospects.
But what has changed in recent years is that the Rays are willing to be more aggressive, both in trading away some of the prospects they have developed, and in trading for players that are in the majors and ready to contribute, some heavily.
“There are many instances where the incentives for the trades that we make are driven by revenue limitations and balancing our resources, such as when a player gets to a certain level of established ability and service,’’ general manager Erik Neander said.
“But increasingly we’ve been more open to swapping players player earlier in their career. I think at the end of the day, we recognize that we have to be wide open to any acquisition method that gives us a team that we like better than the one we had previously, be it for today or be it for tomorrow.’’
Also, he said, “the more near-term sensitivity we have competitively the better position we’re in, so that’s the goal. Striking that balance has to be a constant. We can never overlook that. Where you want to be is having a mindfulness on the short-term and not having it 100 percent pushed out to the future.’’
Obviously that strategy comes with some risks. As much as dealing Chris Archer for Austin Meadows and Tyler Glasnow and prospect Shane Baz looks great, seeing Trea Turner star for the Nationals (who they could have kept rather than flip for Steven Souza Jr.) or German Marquez pitch for the Rockies (traded in a deal for Corey Dickerson) is not so good.
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“We really embrace the fact that we’re not going to hit 1.000 on the trades that we make,’’ Neander said. “But if we execute enough deals in volume and if we’re on the right side of then in how they fit our club, then we’ll ultimately be in a better place.’’
How the Rays acquired the 28 players who have been on the roster for either the wild-card game or division series:
Acquired in trade (19)
Shortstop Willy Adames
July 31, 2014: From Tigers, with Drew Smyly, and Nick Franklin from Mariners, for David Price in three-team deal.
Infielder Daniel Robertson
Jan. 10, 2015: From A’s, with John Jaso, Boog Powell and cash, for Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar
Infielder Matt Duffy
August 1, 2016: From Giants, with Lucius Fox and Michael Santos, for Matt Moore
Pitcher Ryan Yarbrough
January 11, 2017: From Mariners, with Mallex Smith and Carlos Vargas, for Drew Smyly
Reliever Chaz Roe
July 28, 2017: From Braves, for cash
Infielder Joey Wendle
Dec. 11, 2017: From A’s, for Jonah Heim
Reliever Colin Poche
Feb. 20, 2018: From D’backs, with Anthony Banda, Sam McWilliams and Nick Solak, from Yankees, for Steven Souza Jr., in three-team deal.
First baseman Ji-Man Choi
June 10, 2018: From Brewers, for Brad Miller and cash
Outfielder Tommy Pham
July 31, 2018: From Cardinals, with international money, for Genesis Cabrera, Roel Ramirez, Justin Williams
Pitcher Tyler Glasnow, outfielder Austin Meadows
July 31, 2018: From Pirates, with Shane Baz, for Chris Archer
Catcher Mike Zunino
Nov. 8., 2018: From Mariners, with Michael Plassmeyer, for Mallex Smith and Jake Fraley
Infielder Yandy Diaz
Dec. 13, 2018: From Indians, with Cole Sulser, for Jake Bauers and $5 million to Mariners in three-team deal.
Reliever Emilio Pagan
Dec. 21, 2018: From A’s, with Rollie Lacy and competitive balance draft pick, for Kyle Bird, Brock Burke, Yoel Espinal to Rangers in three-team deal.
Reliever Oliver Drake
Jan. 4, 2019: From Blue Jays for cash
Catcher Travis d’Arnaud
May 10, 2019: From Dodgers, for $100,000
Infielder Eric Sogard
July 28, 2019: From Blue Jays, for Edisson Gonzalez, Curtis Taylor
First baseman Jesus Aguilar
July 31, 2019: From Brewers, for Jake Faria
Reliever Nick Anderson
July 31, 2019: From Marlins, with Trevor Richards, for Jesus Sanchez and Ryne Stanek
Signed as free agents (2): Outfielder Avisail Garcia, pitcher Charlie Morton
Drafted/signed originally by Rays (7): Infielder Mike Brosseau, reliever Diego Castillo, pitcher Yonny Chirinos, outfielder Kevin Kiermaier, infielder Brandon Lowe, pitcher Brendan McKay, pitcher Blake Snell.
The effort to bring an MLB team to Nashville is ramping up with the release of details about the group, including Tampa’s Tony La Russa as an advisor, and “conceptual” stadium plans. The stated goal is an expansion franchise to start play in 2024 though “relocation and rebranding of an existing franchise would also be considered.’’ … Bench coach Matt Quatraro may get some attention from teams looking to hire managers, as Rays coaches Charlie Montoyo and Rocco Baldelli did last off-season. … Cool scene in Houston Friday as former Fox Sports Sun Rays reporters Todd Kalas (now the Astros TV guy) and Kelly Nash (now with MLB Network) talked with current reporter Tricia Whitaker. … Tommy Pham, who will be arbitration-eligible again, switched representation to the new boutique-style Gem Agency, formed by Greg Genske. … The Stephen Bronfman group seeking to bring baseball back to Montreal did their potential Rays partners no favor by leaking, and then tweeting, plans to attend the wild-card game in Oakland. … Charlie Morton finished tied for fifth with St. Louis’ Jack Flaherty in Baseball Digest’s voting for pitcher of the year; Houston’s Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole were 1-2. … Deadspin.com did a story detailing Whitaker’s repeated dousings in the two clinching celebrations.
Contact Marc Topkin at email@example.com. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.