Many have doubted whether he could truly help the Tampa Bay Rays, but Ryan Howard has continued to be a rumored target for the team. Now the rumors have come to fruition. Marc Topkin reports that the Rays have acquired the Philadelphia Phillies’ first baseman and former National League Most Valuable Player along with shortstop prospect Jimmy Smith in exchange for outfielder David DeJesus.
Howard is owed $60 million for the next two seasons, but as expected, the Rays are not going to pay very much of that. The Phillies will send $50 million back to the Rays according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, making Howard’s contract into a two-year, $10 million pact. Such a deal certainly comes with risk, but Howard delivered 23 home runs and 95 RBI last season and the Rays will hope to get similar production from the slugger the next two years.
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Bizarrely, the Rays are actually sending some money back to the Phillies as they will pay $2.5 million of the $6 million DeJesus has remaining on his contract. That was initially reported by Jonah Keri, who also contributed that Philadelphia is open to dealing DeJesus again before spring training is through. If he does remain with the team, DeJesus will likely start in the outfield, especially with Domonic Brown out to begin the year.
The Rays ends the drawn-out saga of the Rays’ attempts to trade DeJesus, but no one thought it would finish like this. It was nice for the Rays to unload DeJesus’ salary, but Howard doesn’t exactly represent salary relief. Instead, it turns out that there are more things in the works here.
Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune has the scoop that the Rays have decided to start Steven Souza at Triple-A to begin the season. They have been disappointed with how Souza has looked this spring as he has worked counts, hit for power, played good defense, and run well, but he hasn’t hit for a high enough average. His demotion opens up a spot for Howard, who will DH with John Jaso starting in left field.
DeJesus has always been a solid player, but with the Rays desperate for power–even at the expense of skills like hitting for average, getting on base, and playing defense–Howard simply fit their needs better. DeJesus’ departure, meanwhile, will net him more regular at-bats in Philadelphia and clear up a spot on the Rays’ roster.
Finally, we probably should talk about Jimmy Smith. Smith, 25, had a solid year at Triple-A last season, hitting .242 with decent pop and strong defense at shortstop. Just like the Rays signed Scott Diamond to provide depth while Nate Karns and maybe Matt Andriese are in the major leagues, Smith will do the same with Tim Beckham and/or Jake Elmore set to make the Rays.
Between yesterday’s real trade for Erasmo Ramirez and this deal for Ryan Howard, the Tampa Bay Rays are certainly making things happen this spring. Of course, acquiring Howard is not a part of that. Happy April Fools’ Day everyone, and hopefully the next DeJesus trade story we print will not be a joke.