ST. PETERSBURG — Rays officials talked about a number of their prospects for much of Tuesday but, unable to work any trades to open additional space on their 40-man roster or move the promising players elsewhere, added only two to protect them from being taken in the upcoming Rule 5 draft.
One was Yoniel Curet, their minor-league Pitcher of the Year for his work at the Class A level. The other was infielder Austin Shenton, who had a strong offensive season at Double-A Montgomery and Triple-A Durham.
To make room, the Rays designated for assignment two pitchers — reliever Calvin Faucher and starter Cooper Criswell — who had time in the majors this past season.
Curet, 21, signed with the Rays in 2019 and moved slowly before having an impressive 2023 breakout season. He went 8-1 with a 2.94 ERA in 26 games (22 starts) between Class A Charleston (S.C.) and High-A Bowling Green, with 144 strikeouts in 86⅓ innings.
Despite Curet’s relative inexperience, the Rays were concerned his high-end stuff — led by a fastball regularly in the mid 90s and at times on the high side — could lead to another team taking a chance on drafting him and bringing him to the majors.
“Really, really talented arm,” baseball operations president Erik Neander said. “A special fastball in terms of the ability, what he can do with it — you’re talking about an impact fastball, that type of potential. ... He’s strong, he’s athletic, and he has an exceptional, elite high-end fastball.
“When you have those building blocks in place ... he still has a ways to go before he impacts the club, but it’s the kind of ceiling that you don’t want to take for granted. You want to continue to nurture and see where it goes. He has the ingredients to be a front-end pitcher with further refinements and the kind of guy that we need to be patient with but we also need to take care.”
Shenton, 25, was acquired from the Mariners, along with reliever JT Chargois, in exchange for reliever Diego Castillo in July 2021. Between the Biscuits and Bulls, the left-handed swinger hit .304 with 29 home runs, 99 RBIs and a 1.007 OPS over 134 games, playing mostly third base with some time at first.
“Going back to when we acquired him from Seattle, a bat that we believed in,” Neander said. “He’s been a little up and down with some injuries and performance consistency but really put it together this year and had the kind of breakthrough year you need to be in a position to be added. Happy to have another lefty bat that we think has the ability to impact the major league lineup in time. Some positional versatility. A nice extra bit of depth on our 40-man as we move forward.”
Among prospects the Rays chose not to protect were pitchers Anthony Molina, Ian Seymour and Cole Wilcox, infielder Willy Vasquez, and outfielders Heriberto Hernandez and Kameron Misner. ‘It’s hard,” Neander said.
Stay updated on Tampa Bay’s sports scene
Subscribe to our free Sports Today newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
Faucher, 28, has what manager Kevin Cash has called “stupid good” stuff, but inconsistent performances and injuries have been ongoing issues since he was acquired with Nelson Cruz from Minnesota in July 2021. In 39 games over 2022-23, Faucher was 3-4 with a 6.32 ERA, allowing 57 hits and 22 walks over 47 innings.
Criswell was a valuable spare part this past season, called up eight times (including as the 27th man for three doubleheaders) and making 10 appearances, posting a 5.73 ERA.
Neander said the Rays would be open to bringing the players back on minor-league deals if they don’t land elsewhere.
“I think it’d be easy to look at their major-league numbers and pass judgment on that, but everybody plays their role on a club and there’s different opportunities and different ways to impact the club,” Neander said. “Both of those guys in terms of the opportunities they had, the space that they filled on our major-league group, it all added up to 99 wins.
“Part of getting there as you lose players, as things don’t go as planned, is patching holes and having players available that can step in and do those jobs. They’re not glamorous jobs. These are two that they frankly did a lot of that last year and were important to our success in that regard. Appreciate both of them, and we’ll see how this plays out.”
Also Tuesday, the Rays agreed to terms on a one-year, $1.95 million contract with lefty reliever Tyler Alexander, who was claimed off waivers last week from Detroit. That reduces their number of players eligible for arbitration to 11, with the deadline to tender contracts Friday at 8 p.m.
Support for ‘Sweet Lou’
The Rays, Cubs, Mariners, Reds and Royals issued a joint statement Tuesday “in support of Lou Piniella’s candidacy for induction” into the Baseball Hall of Fame, with the contemporary baseball era committee for managers/executives/umpires voting on Dec. 3.
“Lou is one of Tampa Bay’s great baseball treasures,” Rays president Matt Silverman said in the release. “When he returned home to manage the Devil Rays, he immediately raised the profile and expectations of our franchise in its formative years.”
Piniella managed the Reds, Mariners, Rays and Cubs, and played five seasons for the Royals. He also played for and managed the Yankees.
• • •
Sign up for the Sports Today newsletter to get daily updates on the Bucs, Rays, Lightning and college football across Florida.