ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays didn’t figure to land one of the bigger bats on the trade market, such as Juan Soto or Willson Contreras. But they did make a deal Saturday that they feel will help their offense, acquiring veteran outfielder David Peralta from Arizona.
Peralta, who turns 35 in two weeks, is a lefty swinger who can hit for average with some power and has played exclusively leftfield the last four-plus years. He has a .283 career average and .803 OPS, and this year is hitting .248 with 12 homers, 41 RBIs and a .777 OPS, doing most of his damage against right-handed pitchers.
“Just a good baseball player,” manager Kevin Cash said.
The Rays value Peralta for what he can do.
“He’s very well-rounded,” general manager Peter Bendix said. “He’s hit for decent power this year, but in his career, he’s kind of done a lot of different things. Good defender, good baserunner, can put the bat on the ball when needed, can hit it out of the park when needed, doubles. Just kind of a really well-rounded skill-set.”
And the Rays also value him for what he has done during parts of nine seasons with the Diamondbacks, given the relative youth in their clubhouse.
“The fact that he has experience, that he’s been around, that he’s seen a lot of things in this game, I think balances out our group really well right now,” Bendix said. “So I think he’s a really nice complement for what we have.”
Peralta, with the Diamondbacks in Atlanta, said he was shocked and sad to be leaving the only team he has ever known, but also eager to join a Rays team that could give him a second trip to the postseason.
“I was really excited and happy the Rays were interested in me,” he said in a call with Tampa Bay media. “I believe I can help them go to the playoffs. And I know that’s going to happen.”
Peralta has a fascinating backstory.
He started his pro career as a pitcher in the Cardinals organization, getting released after two shoulder surgeries, working at a McDonald’s before working his way back into the game with two-plus seasons in independent ball before signing a Class A minor-league deal Arizona in July 2013. By June 2014 he was in the majors, and he has won Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards.
Adding Peralta, who is slated to join the Rays on Sunday, will cause some shuffling to the roster and lineup.
Making space on the 40-man roster was relatively painless in designating recently claimed Triple-A pitcher Angel Perdomo for assignment, but one of the current outfielders will have to go to make room on the active roster. Optioning Luke Raley or Josh Lowe, also lefty hitters, seems most likely.
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It wouldn’t be surprising to see Peralta, who is best suited to leftfield, only start against right-handed pitchers. If he and Randy Arozarena are both in the lineup, Arozarena will either DH or shift to rightfield, as both will be part of an ongoing rotation.
Peralta said he is willing to do whatever the Rays ask. The Rays will owe the roughly $3 million remaining on his $8 million contract, with Peralta a free agent at the end of the season. To get him, the Rays gave up catcher Christian Cerda, a 19-year-old catcher in his second pro season playing in the Florida Complex League.
Bendix said the Rays will keep talking with teams about other possible deals up to the 6 p.m. Tuesday deadline.
“At this point, we’re talking and listening on everything and everybody,” he said. “I think most teams in baseball are doing the same. Never know what’s going to come together, but we’re going to try to make this team as good as we can. We’re always also looking at the future. ... It’s hard to say what will or won’t come together.”
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