CLEVELAND — Given how some of the Rays starters have pitched recently, you might think they were looking to add to their staff before the July 30 trade deadline.
But given the number of starters they have, the Rays thought it made more sense for now to create more options and opportunities and trade one away, shipping veteran lefty Rich Hill to the Mets.
As general manager Erik Neander explained it, they felt like they put themselves in the best position on both fronts.
The flexibility will help after the commitment to give Luis Patino an extended look as a starter expanded the rotation to six. And another option is potentially coming soon, as Chris Archer was sharp Thursday in his third rehab outing, having been out since April with an elbow issue. There is also the potential for top starter Tyler Glasnow to return in September, but a lot has to go right.
Hill, 41, was 6-4 with a 3.87 ERA in a team-high 19 starts. But after an impressive May and early June run, he had been struggling with adjustments, going 1-3, 5.40, allowing a .274 average and .876 OPS while averaging less than five innings per outing.
But there was interest in Hill, and the opportunity to send him to another contending team was something Neander felt was important given that Hill signed a one-year, $2.5 million deal with the Rays for the chance to win a World Series.
And to accomplish all that now, with a week until the deadline to assess other options, big or small, made it all fit together.
“We were trending in the direction of having to make some tough calls,” Neander said. “You always want to be so careful. We’re going to be open. If there’s a way to upgrade our starting rotation through another path, we’re always going to consider it.
“But there was also a numbers element to this that was probably on the horizon. And pushing guys to the pen, disrupting their roles, disrupting their routines, something was probably going to give in this group. And we had to figure that out.
“I would not suggest that we felt we had too much starter depth,” Neander continued. “I think we had a lot of guys that were (putting) different pressures in play to provide them opportunities and left us open-minded to alleviating that just a little bit right now as we continue to assess our options.”
The other members of the rotation are right-hander Michael Wacha and lefties Shane McClanahan, Ryan Yarbrough and Josh Fleming.
For Hill, the Rays got veteran reliever Tommy Hunter and Class A catcher/infielder/outfielder Matt Dyer, a 2020 fourth-round pick from Arizona. The key was Dyer, who the Rays see as an intriguing prospect. Hunter is on the 60-day injured list with a back issue that has sidelined him since May and may not pitch again this season. He was included to just about balance out what the Mets took on in Hill’s salary, about $835,000. Hunter, who signed for $2.25 million, is owed about $825,000.
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