Rays Have Roster Decisions To Make Ahead Of November 19th Deadline

For Now, Roster Decisions Aren’t That Difficult

Tampa, FL – Baseball’s off-season clock begins ticking at the end of the World Series. Five days upon the completion of the World Series teams have to re-instate players from the 60-day injured list back onto their 40-man rosters, decisions on whether or not to pick up contract options need to be made, minor league players heading to free agency need to either be added to the 40-man roster or allowed to hit the open market, and qualifying offers to eligible free agents can be offered.

The Rays easiest decision was picking up the 2022 option for catcher Mike Zunino. They also re-instated Jalen Beeks, Yonny Chirinos, Tyler Glasnow, Colin Poche, Jeffrey Springs, and Ryan Thompson from the 60-day injured list and added minor league free agent eligible catcher Rene Pinto to the roster. To make room on the 40-man roster the Rays parted ways with pitchers Ryan Sherriff (claimed off waivers by the Philadelphia Phillies), Cody Reed, Chris Mazza, DJ Johnson, Oliver Drake, and Adam Conley.

On Saturday, Tampa Bay cleared another roster spot by trading Mike Brosseau to the Milwaukee Brewers for reliever Even Reifert who does not need to be placed on the 40-man nor is he eligible for the Rule 5 draft. The Rays roster stands at 39.

Rays Updated Roster:

With the aforementioned roster moves completed, Tampa Bay begins its off-season with one open roster spot on their 40-man roster. The makeup of the roster includes 22 pitchers, 3 catchers, 6 infielders, and 8 outfielders.

Pitchers (22): Nick AndersonShane Baz, Jalen Beeks, JT Chargois, Yonny Chirinos, Dietrich EnnsPete FairbanksJ.P. FeyereisenJosh Fleming, Tyler Glasnow, Louis Head, Brent Honeywell, Andrew KittredgeShane McClanahanBrendan McKayLuis Patino, Colin Poche, Drew Rasmussen, Jeffrey Springs, Ryan Thompson, Matt WislerRyan Yarbrough,

Catchers (3): Mike Zunino, Francisco Mejia, Rene Pinto

Infielders (6): Ji-Man ChoiYandy DiazWander FrancoBrandon LoweTaylor WallsJoey Wendle

Outfielders (8):Randy Arozarena, Vidal Brujan, Kevin Kiermaier, Josh Lowe, Jordan Luplow, Manuel Margot, Austin Meadows, and Brett Phillips

Up Next: Protecting Prospects Ahead Of Rule 5 Draft

Tampa Bay did not issue a qualifying offer to any of their pending free agents. The next important date on MLB’s off-season calendar is November 19th. Teams have to do another roster shuffle by then and add players that are Rule 5 draft eligible to their 40-man roster to protect them from being selected in the Rule 5 draft held annually on the last day of the Winter Meetings.

Player Eligibility And Rule 5 Rules:

Players eligible for the Rule 5 draft are comprised of those in the system that singed at age 19 or older and played in four seasons and players singed at age 18 or younger and have played in five season. The group is mostly made up of the players drafted in 2018 (or earlier years), high school players drafted in 2017 or earlier, and international free agents signed in 2017 or earlier.

A team, with an open spot on their 40 man roster, can draft an eligible player for $100,000. The drafted player must remain on the drafting team’s 26-man roster the following season or be offered back to the original team after clearing waivers for $50,000. If the player is claimed by another team off waivers, the Rule 5 roster stipulation is still in effect (player must remain on 26-man MLB roster). Additionally, a Rule 5 pick can be placed on a MLB injured list but must be active for a minimum of 90 days to avoid having the roster restriction carry over to the following season.

Teams have lost significant players in the Rule 5 draft and the Rays are one of the teams whose questionable roster management left the door open for a quality talent. In 2006, they left Josh Hamilton unprotected and he was selected by the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs traded him to to the Cincinnati Reds on the same day and the rest is history. Hamilton went on to appear in five All-Star games and win the American League’s Most Valuable Player Award in 2010 while a member of the Texas Rangers.

Pairing Down The List Of Intriguing Players:

The list of players eligible for the Rule 5 draft is long, but the majority of the players have little chance of being selected. Tampa Bay, with one of the deepest farm systems in baseball, has a substantial list of interesting players. My process generally begins with identifying the intriguing list of names and then begin pairing them down to who I believe should be added to the 40 man roster.

While I am admittedly not a scout, I do spend a good amount of time watching video of the Rays prospects and try to incorporate a little scouting based knowledge above the box score or web-available stats for each player. The rationale I use for pairing down the list is made up of a variety of factors will be discussed below. One area that I don’t spend a lot of time on is trying to compare a player that needs protection versus someone on the existing roster. In other words, I won’t rank a player as the least valuable rostered Rays player and then determine whether one of the prospects in need of protection is more worthy. While that may be part of the teams decision making matrix, I believe that decision was made well before the November 19th deadline.

Other factors I weigh are the projected ceiling of the player. How deep is the Rays MLB roster at the position and in the system? Could an equivalent player be found on the minor league free agent market? How long until the player can impact the MLB roster and to what degree? Finally, some players may not be fits on the Rays 40-man roster but they have high value and will be selected in Rule 5. These players generally need to be traded ahead of the November 19th deadline or added to the roster for inclusion in trades later in the winter.

Christopher Sanchez fit this mold when he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies on November 20, 2019 (deadline for finalizing roster ahead of Rule 5 in 2019). Other notable players that have been added and traded later in the same off-season include Jake Cronenworth, German Marquez, Felipe Vazquez, and Jesse Hahn.

My list of interesting players will include a few players who I don’t believe will be drafted but could have value to another organization via trade at some point during the winter, could help the Rays in a small role during 2022, or could be a player worth watching their stock in 2022.

An example of a non-40 man player having value to another organization would be a player such as former prospect Jonah Heim who was traded to the Oakland Athletics for Joey Wendle. An example of the non-roster player that can help fill the needs of the MLB club if needed is Johnny Field. He was summoned multiple times during the 2018 season appearing in 62 games. An example of a player whose stock took off in a season was catcher Rene Pinto whose stellar performance in 2021 earned him a coveted spot on the team’s 40-man roster.

The players that pique my interest include catchers Ford Proctor and Blake Hunt, infielders Jonathan Aranda, Alexander Ovalles, Esteban Quiroz, Tristan Gray, Miles Mastrobuoni, outfielders Ruben Cardenas, Niko Hulsizer, Ryan Boldt, and pitchers Tommy Romero, Tobias Myers, Jacob Lopez, Calvin Faucher, Phoenix Sanders, Tanner Dodson.

Which Rays Prospects Should Be Added:

The list of Rays prospects eligible for the Rule 5 draft includes several candidates that I believe will eventually make it to the big leagues. Although, the Rays have some decisions to make overall these decisions really aren’t that difficult as the crop of prospects lack what I would deem as MLB impact. The Rays real roster jam will come after the November 19th deadline. The rest of the winter Tampa Bay will balance incoming players (free agent, trades, etc.) with corresponding moves to free up roster space.

For me, there are three prospects that should be added to the 40-man roster. They are pitchers Tommy Romero, Tobias Myers, and Jacob Lopez.

Tommy Romero is the only one of the trio that I can say for certain will be added to the 40-man roster. Myers more than likely if unprotected will be selected in the Rule 5 draft. There should be a market for him ahead of November 19th. If a suitable deal can’t be reached by then. If not, he should be added to the roster for depth especially with injuries to starters Yonny Chirinos and Brendan McKay clouding their availability early in the year. Alternative, he could be an additional trade asset later this winter or during the 2022 campaign. Lopez is an intriguing high-ceiling arm whose season was ended by an elbow injury. His status for the 2022 season is up in the air but a team could select him and place him on the IL. I view Lopez as a higher ceiling player and believe his arm is worth keeping in the system.

Why and Why Not On The Prospects:

Catcher – Ford Proctor (LHB) was selected by the Rays in the third round of the 2018 draft out of Rice University.  He spent the 2018-2019 seasons moving around the infield before putting the catchers gear on in the 2020-2021 Australian Baseball League.  The transition to catcher continued in 2021 with the Rays Double-A affiliate Montgomery Biscuits where he appeared in 58 games (57 starts) behind the plate (492 innings).  He also appeared in four games at second base, five at third base, and 28 games at shortstop.  Reports indicate that he graded well behind the plate and threw out 24-percent (14-of-42) runners trying to steal.  He got off to a slow start with the bat hitting just .176/.342/.280 through the seasons first two months (158 PAs) before turning it around. He finished the season batting .299/.419/.522 (246 PAs). Overall, he hit .244/.381/.419 with 12 homers.  His versatility behind the plate and in the infield along with not being overwhelmed with the bat in his hands makes him worthy of being added to the Rays 40-man roster. What works against him is the fact that the team currently has three catchers on their 40-man roster in Mike Zunino, Francisco Mejia, and Rene Pinto. Proctor’s versatility makes him a candidate in the Rule 5 draft, if not traded prior to November 19th.

Catcher – Blake Hunt (RHB) was acquired by the Rays in the Blake Snell trade in December 2020.1  He spent the 2021 season mostly with the Rays High-A affiliate Bowling Green Hot Rods (59 games) while also appearing in 17 games with their Double-A affiliate Biscuits.  He struggled with the bat in both locations batting a combined .205/.288/.375 but fared slightly better in A+ batting .225/.307/.427.  Between the two levels he throw out 21-percent (14-of-52) of would be base stealers. With the Rays three catchers already on the 40-man roster and Ford Proctor in the system he will not be added to the roster.

Infielder – Jonathan Aranda (LHB) was signed as an international free agent by the Rays on July 2, 2015.   From 2016 through 2019 he had amassed 847 plate appearances iand hit a combined total of five homers.  In 2021 he hit 14 homers between the Hot Rods and the Biscuits.  He spent the month of May with the Hot Rods where he hit .351/.449/.554 with four homers in 89 plate appearances.  He spent the remainder of the year with the Biscuits hitting .325/.410/.540 with 10 homers in 322 plate appearances. Defensively, he appeared in 48 games at first base,  32 games at second,  15 at third, and two in left field. While it was nice to see the bat show signs of life in 2021, the Rays are better served allowing Aranda to continue to develop at the minor league level. If another team should elect to select him the Rays will not feel the impact at the big league level. Another big year and he could force the Rays into a Rene Pinto like decision at the conclusion of next season.

Infielder – Alexander Ovalles (LHB) was acquired from the Texas Rangers in the Nate Lowe trade in December 20202. The now 21 year old spent the 2021 season with the Rays Low-A affiliate Charleston River Dogs and hit .245/.348/.378  with 8 homers. He won’t be added to the Rays roster this season, but his inclusion on this list is intended for looking forward to an interesting name to watch for next year. He’s also included on this list because I believe his ceiling is higher than most and there is always a player like Ovalles that a team with roster space gambles on in Rule 5.

Infielder – Esteban Quiroz (LHB) was acquired by the Rays from the San Diego Padres in the Tommy Pham trade in 2019.3  He spent the 2021 season appearing in 68 games with the Rays Triple-A affiliate Durham Bulls where he hit.268/.401/.526 with 12 homers.  He appeared in 58 games (55 starts) at second base and three games (2 starts) at shortstop.  Compared to other prospects he is long in the tooth (30 on February 17, 2022). He will not be added to the Rays roster nor do I believe he will be selected in the Rule 5 draft.

Infielder – Tristan Gray (LHB) was acquired by the Rays from the Pittsburgh Pirates in the Corey Dickerson trade completed in February 2018.4 Gray spent the 2021 season with the Bulls where he hit .245/.31/.427 with eight homers spanning 275 plate appearances.  Defensively, he appeared in 38 games at shortstop, 23 games at third base, eight at first, and two at second. He won’t be added to the Rays 40-man roster nor do I expect him to be selected in the Rule 5 draft.

Infielder – Miles Mastrobuoni (LHB) was selected by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 14th round in 2016 out of the University of Nevada. He spent the 2020 season between the Biscuits (55 games, 249 plate appearances) and the Bulls (51 games, 185 plate appearances). Overall, he hit .296/378/.424 with 5 homers.  Like so many other Rays, versatility is one of his strengths as he appeared in 10 games in left field, 19 games in right, eight in center, 26 games at shortstop, four at third base, and five at second.  He won’t be added to the Rays 40-man roster. nor will he be selected in the Rule 5 draft.

Outfielder – Ruben Cardenas (RHB) was acquired by the Tampa Bay Rays in a trade with the Cleveland Indians in 2019.5  He opened the 2021 season with the Hot Rods appearing in 30 games where he hit a blistering .368/.424/.658 with 10 homers in 132 plate appearances.   He was promoted to the Biscuits batting .262/.294/.469 with 15 homers in 309 plate appearance. Overall, he hit .292/.333/.523 with 25 homers.  One negative is 115 strike outs in 441 plate appearances while drawing just 24 walks.  Defensively he appeared in 27 games in centerfield, 40 in left, and 30 in right. He will not be added to the Rays roster but is worth watching in Rule 5.

Outfielder – Ryan Boldt (LHB) was selected by the Tampa Bay Rays in the second round of the 2016 draft out of the University of Nebraska. Injuries have been his waterloo and that continued in 2021 limiting him to just 85 games (338 plate appearances) with the Bulls.  With Durham he hit .260/.337/.433 with 11 homers. He shows promise if he stays healthy. He will not be added to the Rays roster but is worth watching in Rule 5.

Outfielder – Niko Hulsizer (RHB) was acquired by the Tampa Bay Rays from the Los Angeles Dodgers in 20196. He opened the 2021 season with the Hot Rods appearing in 44 games (180 plate appearances) hitting .248/.361/.569 with 13 homers. He was promoted to the Biscuits hitting .243/.327/.541 with 8 homers in 196 plate appearances. Overall, he hit .245/.343/.506 with 21 homers in 386 plate appearances. The big negative for Hulsizer is his plate discipline striking out 148 times while walking 45 times. He will not be added to the Rays 40 man but is worth watching in Rule 5.

Pitcher – Tommy Romero (RHP) was acquired by the Tampa Bay Rays from the Seattle Mariners in May of 2018.7 He opened the season with the Biscuits and went 1-0 with a 1.88 ERA spanning 11 games (9 starts) earning his promotion to the Bulls.  He appeared in 12 games, all starts, with Durham posting a 7-2 mark with a 2.61 ERA.  Between the two levels, Romero posted a 8-2 mark pitching to a 2.61 ERA (32ER/110.1IP). He struck out an impressive 11.8 batters per nine innings while limiting walks to just 2.5 batters per nine.  The Tampa Bay Rays will add him to their 40-man roster.

Tobias Myers (RHP) was acquired by the Tampa Bay Ray from the Baltimore Orioles in 20178.  Like Romero, Myers opened the year with the Biscuits and appeared in 13 games (10 starts) compiling a 5-3 mark with a 3.32 ERA earning his promotion to the Durham Bulls. While with Durham,  he appeared in 12 games, all starts, and posted a 3-4 mark with a 4.50 ERA.  Overall, he worked to a 8-7 mark with a 3.90 ERA while striking out 11.2 batters per nine innings while limiting walks to 2.1 batters per nine. If not traded prior to the November 19th deadline he will be added to the Rays 40-man roster. If he isn’t added to the 40-man roster he’s a solid bet to be one of the top players selected in the Rule 5 draft.

Pitcher – Jacob Lopez (LHP) was acquired by the Tampa Bay Rays from the San Francisco Giants in 20198.  Lopez got off to a fantastic start with the Hot Rods going 3-1 with a 2.30 ERA spanning 14 games (10 starts) striking out 14.5 batters per nine innings while walking just 2.8 batter per nine.  His strong performance earned him a promotion to the Montgomery Biscuits where he made one start. After the game it was revealed that he had suffered an elbow injury that would put him on the shelf for the remainder of the 2021 season.  His health status for the 2022 season is unknown but if left unprotected it is my opinion that he will be selected. I believe the decision of what to do with Jacob Lopez is the toughest call the Rays will have to make.

It should be noted that other teams can not request his medical reports prior to the Rule 5 draft. The Baltimore Orioles gambled on the health of Cleveland prospect Anthony Santander who spent much of that first season with Baltimore on the injury list. His Rule 5 status carried over two seasons to meet the minimum 90-day active requirement. Teams such as Arizona, Pittsburgh, and Baltimore may find the risk of the $100,000 investment worth the reward of a high ceiling pitcher.

Pitcher – Phoenix Sanders (LHP) was drafted by the Rays in the 10th round of the 2017 draft out of nearby University of South Florida. He spent the 2021 season with the Bulls appearing in 50 games (11 starts) posting a 5-2 record with a 3.80 ERA (64 innings).  He struck out an impressive 11.3 batters per nine innings and walked just 1.5 batters per nine. The Rays will not add Sanders to the roster and if not traded prior to November 19th is worth watching in Rule 5.

Pitcher – Calvin Faucher (RHP) was acquired by the Tampa Bay Rays along with Nelson Cruz from the Minnesota Twins at the 2021 trade deadline9.  He opened the year with the Twins Double-A affiliate Wichita Wind Surge where he appeared in 19 games and posted an unsightly 7.04 ERA striking out 12.3 batters per nine inning but walked 7.0 batters per nine.  After the trade he reported to the Biscuits and delivered two scoreless outings (4.2-innings) before being promoted to Durham where he finished the season.  With the Bulls, he appeared in 32 games (3 starts) logging 55.2-innings and posting a 1-1 mark with  a 4.53 ERA.  He showed improved control in Durham striking out 11.5 batters per nine innings while reducing the walk rate to just 3.1 batters per nine.  The Rays would like to keep him in their system, but he’s not someone I believe will be protected on the 40-man roster nor do I believe he will be selected in Rule 5.

Pitcher – Tanner Dodson (RHP) was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 2nd round of the 2018 draft as a two- way player. In 2018 with the Rays then low-A affiliate Hudson Renegades he appeared in 30 games in CF while making 9 appearances on the mound.  In 2019 with the then High-A Rays affiliate Charlotte Stone Crabs he appeared in 11 games in centerfield while appearing in 8 games at pitcher.  Last season he appeared in 8 games at designated hitter logging just 30 plate appearances with the Bowling Green Hot Rods. He spent the majority of the 2021 season focusing on pitching and had great success with the Hot Rods appearing in 24 games (1 start) posting a 4-0 mark with a 2.50 ERA.  He struck out 10.7 batters per nine innings and walked 3.2 batters per nine.  He met a little more resistance after he was promoted to the Biscuits where he posted a 4.86 ERA spanning 13 outings (16.2-innings) striking out 17 batters while walking nine.  He is another pitcher the Rays would like to maintain control over after the Rule 5 draft. I don’t believe he’ll be added to the roster but he is projectable and is someone to watch in Rule 5.

Pitcher – Aaron Slegers (RHP) – Tampa Bay signed Slegers to a 2-year minor league deal after he was released by the Los Angeles Angels at the end of August. Slegers appeared in 12 games with the Rays in 2019 and 2020 and was part of the 2020 Postseason roster. Normally, Rule 5 draftees are prospects that clubs are hoping take that next step. Normally, I wouldn’t include Slegers in this write up, but back in 2016 the Boston Red Sox selected infielder Josh Rutledge who had signed a minor league deal with the Colorado Rockies. With that one example still rattling around between my ears, I include Slegers as someone who could be selected.

Wrapping It Up:

Tampa Bay has several intriguing players that could be attractive trade candidates ahead of the Rule 5 draft, several that may be selected in Rule 5, and several that the organization will more than likely retain control of to finish developing or help the team in some short term capacity if needed in 2022.

  • Possible Rule 5 Selections: Ford Proctor, Blake Hunt, Tanner Dodson, and Calvin Faucher.
  • Finish Development: Jonathan Aranda, Alexander Ovalles, Ruben Cardenas, Niko Hulsizer, and Tanner Dodson.
  • Stick and possibly help: Ryan Boldt, Miles Mastrobuoni, Tristan Gray, Esteban Quiroz, and Phoenix Sanders.

If not added to the roster Jacob Lopez and Tobias Myers both strong possibilities as Rule 5 selections. If Tampa Bay feels any of the possible Rule 5 selections outlined here are attractive to other teams, a small deal may be complete between now November 19th.

Finally, the Rays 40-man roster sits at 39 after the Mike Brosseau trade. Other moves will have to be made between now and the 19th, it’s difficult to predict who will be dealt but I’d surmise at least one outfielder and one relief pitcher will find a new home.

The Transactions:

1On December 29, 2020 Tampa Bay traded left-hander Blake Snell to the San Diego Padres in exchange for minor league catcher Blake Hunt, minor league pitcher Cole Wilcox, pitcher Luis Patino, and catcher Francisco Mejia.

2On December 10, 2020 Tampa Bay traded first baseman Nathaniel Lowe and minor league infielder Jake Guenther, and minor league outfielder Carl Chester to the Texas Rangers for minor league infielders Osleivis BasabeHeriberto Hernandez, and Alexander Ovalles.

3On December 6, 2019 Tampa Bay traded Tommy Pham and minor league infielder Jake Cronenworth to the San Diego Padres in exchange for Hunter Renfroe and minor league infielders Xavier Edwards and Esteban Quiroz.

4On February 22, 2018 Tampa Bay traded Corey Dickerson to the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for Daniel Hudson, minor league infielder Tristan Gray, and cash.

5On July 28, 2018 Tampa Bay traded Christian Arroyo and Hunter Wood to Cleveland in exchange for minor league outfielder Ruben Cardenas and international bonus pool money.

6On July 31, 2019 Tampa Bay traded Adam Kolarek to the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for minor league outfielder Niko Hulsizer.

7On May 25, 2018 Tampa Bay traded Denard Span, Alex Colome, and cash to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for minor league pitchers Andrew Moore and Tommy Romero.

8On July 31, 2019 Tampa Bay traded Joe McCarthy to the San Francisco Giants in exchange for minor league pitcher Jacob Lopez.

9On July 22, 2021 Tamp Bay traded minor league pitchers Joe Ryan and Drew Strotman to the Minnesota Twins in exchange for Nelson Cruz and Calvin Faucher.

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I am a fan of all sports but am most passionate about baseball. From the fanatical to analytical, nothing about the game escapes me. Being born and raised in Northeast Ohio I'm very familiar with the heartache and pain that sports can bring and hope that I bring some understanding of the other side to my coverage. I will focus mostly on baseball but also cover the Tampa Bay Lightning, one of the most electric franchises in all of sports. Always willing to converse about any sport and have only one rule and that is be respectful at all times.