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A big key to Rays’ success: in-season acquisitions

Trades, waiver-wire pickups and signings all helped to fill the void created by injuries and inconsistent performances.
Rays centerfielder Jose Siri (22) and catcher Christian Bethancourt hug after a Behtancourt home run during a game against the Texas Rangers in September at Tropicana Field.
Rays centerfielder Jose Siri (22) and catcher Christian Bethancourt hug after a Behtancourt home run during a game against the Texas Rangers in September at Tropicana Field. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published Oct. 4|Updated Oct. 5

BOSTON — However far the Rays end up going in the postseason tournament that opens Friday with a best-of-three series at Cleveland, they will have taken some detours to get there.

A series of injuries and inconsistent performances from the start of the season forced them to not only test the depth they work hard to accumulate, but to scramble during the season to supplement it.

Acquisitions made during spring training — such as the key signings of Jason Adam, and trades for Harold Ramirez and Isaac Paredes — often can be an extension of the offseason prep, research and planning the Rays do, just not always executed until camps are open. (Especially this year, when the transaction freeze during the lockout put business on hold for months.)

But the way this season unfolded, the Rays were forced to adjust continually on the fly, adding more than a dozen players in seemingly minor ways — via the waiver wire, signings and lesser trades — that made a major difference.

Between losing key players, such as JP Feyereisen, Kevin Kiermaier, Andrew Kittredge, Brandon Lowe and Mike Zunino to season-ending injuries and having young players, such as Josh Lowe and Luis Patino, falter , they needed help.

And when you consider the contributions of catcher Christian Bethancourt, relievers Shawn Armstrong and Garrett Cleavinger, and outfielders David Peralta and Jose Siri, who stepped into depleted positions and stepped up, they got it.

“I think the front office has done a tremendous job. And I certainly think those guys have done even a better job of taking advantage of opportunities and just making us a better team,” manager Kevin Cash said. “All those guys ... have contributed in just huge amounts.

“We got some veteran leadership from David and from Christian Bethancourt. Christian, he’s a better player now than when we acquired him. No doubt about Shawn Armstrong doing the same.

“Jose is as talented as any guy on the field, if you can kind of bottle it all up. When you lose a (Kevin Kiermaier), it’s really tough to go find somebody that can replicate what he does, and I think we got as close as possible.”

Here is a look at the players they added after the start of the season, and how and what they’ve done (all stats through Monday).

RHP Shawn Armstrong

Shawn Armstrong added right-handed depth to the Rays' injury-impacted bullpen.
Shawn Armstrong added right-handed depth to the Rays' injury-impacted bullpen. [ MARTA LAVANDIER | AP ]

How acquired: Signed to a minor-league contract May 4 after being designated for assignment by Marlins.

Stats for Rays: 2-3, 3.62 ERA, 2 saves, 60 strikeouts in 54-2/3 innings.

How he helped: Added right-handed depth to injury-impacted bullpen, worked as multi-inning reliever, including some high-leverage situations, and as an opener.

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C Christian Bethancourt

Catcher Christian Bethancourt stepped in well for injured Mike Zunino behind the plate.
Catcher Christian Bethancourt stepped in well for injured Mike Zunino behind the plate. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]

How acquired: From A’s July 9 for minor-leaguers Christian Fernandez, Cal Stevenson.

Stats for Rays: .259, 7 HRs, 15 RBIs, .711 OPS in 43 games.

How he helped: Stepped in well for injured Mike Zunino, improving work behind the plate with more reps to earn more playing time; controls running game well with strong arm, throwing out nine of 20 base-stealers; has pitched three times.

LH Garrett Cleavinger

Garrett Cleavinger became another reliable left-handed bullpen option for the Rays.
Garrett Cleavinger became another reliable left-handed bullpen option for the Rays. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]

How acquired: From Dodgers Aug. 1 for minor-leaguer German Tapia.

Stats for Rays: 1-0, 2.55 ERA, 23 strikeouts in 17-2/3 innings.

How he helped: Became another reliable left-handed bullpen option with the ability to throw strikes, which had been a past issue, walking only three of 64 batters.

OF David Peralta

David Peralta added an experienced left-handed bat as a leftfielder and designated hitter, as well as experience and clubhouse leadership.
David Peralta added an experienced left-handed bat as a leftfielder and designated hitter, as well as experience and clubhouse leadership. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]

How acquired: From Diamondbacks July 20 for minor-leaguer Christian Cerda.

Stats for Rays: .252, 0 HRs, 18 RBIs, .634 OPS in 46 games.

How he helped: Added an experienced left-handed bat as a leftfielder and designated hitter, as well as experience and clubhouse leadership to a young and largely Latin American player position group. Lack of power has been surprising.

OF Jose Siri

Jose Siri filled the large void left in centerfield left by the injury to Kevin Kiermaier.
Jose Siri filled the large void left in centerfield left by the injury to Kevin Kiermaier. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]

How acquired: From Astros in three-way deal with Orioles Aug. 2 for minor leaguers Seth Johnson and Jayden Murray.

Stats for Rays: .239, 4 HRs, 14 RBIs, .660 OPS, 8 SBs in 54 games.

How he helped: Filled large void left by injury to Kevin Kiermaier with remarkable range and closing speed in centerfield, has shown flashes of power at plate and a disruptive force on bases.

Others

Three other in-season acquisitions who helped, how they were acquired, and their Rays stats:

Former Rays infielder Yu Chang celebrates hitting a home run against the Boston Red Sox in early September.
Former Rays infielder Yu Chang celebrates hitting a home run against the Boston Red Sox in early September. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]

INF Yu Chang: off waivers from Pirates after being DFA’d; .260, 3 HRs, 12 RBIs, .690 OPS in 36 games.

RH Javy Guerra: for cash from Padres after being DFA’d; 2-1, 3.60 in 16 games.

OF Roman Quinn: signed after release from Royals; .262, 0 HRs, 4 RBIs, .745 OPS in 21 games.

Other acquisitions who played in five or fewer Rays games:

RH Cooper Criswell (off waivers from Angels), RH Kevin Herget (signed from independent league), RH David McKay (purchased from Yankees), RH Jimmy Yacabonis (off waivers from Marlins).

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