Tampa Bay Rays: Summary of Winter Meetings, Rule 5 Draft

Nov 8, 2016; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; Tampa Bay Rays general manager Erik Neander during the MLB general managers meeting at the Omni Scottsdale Resort. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 8, 2016; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; Tampa Bay Rays general manager Erik Neander during the MLB general managers meeting at the Omni Scottsdale Resort. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

Plenty of conversations and inquiries surrounded the Tampa Bay Rays at the Winter Meetings, speculation is that groundwork has been made for future deals.

The 2016 Winter Meetings for the Tampa Bay Rays have come and gone. The rotation remains intact, as no trades occurred though there was a significant amount of inquiries, talks and conversations.

Chris Archer initially drew the most interest, especially from the Texas Rangers and Atlanta Braves but the word was that the Rays wanted a boatload in return. However, it did not stop the Rangers from inquiring about Alex Cobb, Drew Smyly and Jake Odorizzi – all three whom they had expressed interest at the trade deadline this past summer. Additionally, the Pittsburgh Pirates chimed in about Odorizzi and could make a play as the offseason progresses.

The Washington Nationals left the meetings still looking for a closer and continue to discuss trade options with the Rays on Alex Colome. However, they Nationals are aware that it will cost them a pretty penny, which leads me to this…

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In my opinion, the Nationals trade with the White Sox for Adam Eaton gave them the prospects that would have probably cemented a deal with the Rays. Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, two of the Nationals’ top prospects on just about every prospect list, and Dane Dunning, a 2016 1st Round pick would have looked very good in a Ray’s uniform.

The Rays may have finally caught their catcher by signing free agent Wilson Ramos to a two-year contract, pending a physical. If everything checks out health wise, and if Ramos can put up his pre-injury numbers the Rays following the 2018 season (when Ramos can become a free agent again) could be in for a super return.

The Rays still need to add depth to the outfield and bullpen and will continue throughout the Hot Stove season to try to address those needs.

“I wouldn’t necessarily handicap any one particular area. We’ve had a lot of conversations that I think have been productive. Whether it leads to anything here or not, it’s hard to tell. But it can happen at a moment’s time in any of those areas right now,” said Rays GM Erik Neander.

The final day of the Winter Meetings concluded with the Rule 5 Draft and surprisingly the Rays, with the fourth overall pick selected right-handed pitcher Kevin Gadea from the Seattle Mariners in the major league portion of the draft.

Tampa Bay had one available spot on their 40-man roster, which was made possible when they non-tendered Ryan Brett. However, it was assumed that the opening would be taken with the addition of Wilson Ramos once the deal becomes official.

Gadea cost the Rays $100,000 and he must remain on the 25-man roster or the disabled list all season or be returned to the Mariners for $50,000 or offer him back to the Mariners and then put him through waivers.

This past season between rookie-level Arizona League and Low-A Midwest League, Gadea was 4-1 with a 2.36 ERA, 1.019 WHIP, and 95/14 K/BB ratio in 68 2/3 innings. Rotoworld reports that Gadea could compete for a spot in the bullpen, though he has been used primarily as a starter in the lower minors.

Rays Director of Baseball Development Peter Bendix said, “We saw him well throughout the season. He missed a lot of bats. We think he has a chance to help us in the bullpen. We’ll take him into spring training and kind of see what we have. He’s a young guy and there’s a lot of long-term potential there.”

“He’s a sleeper… is a converted third baseman but raw on the mound – but he’s big and strong with improving stuff. He’s so raw putting a ceiling on him isn’t fair right now, but keep an eye on him and don’t be surprised if he really breaks out in 2017,” writes Kyle Glaser from Baseball America.

Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times tweets that the Rays, for now intend to keep him on the active roster.

At the Rule 5 Draft last year, the Rays lost Joey Rickard to the Orioles and Tyler Goeddel to the Phillies in the major league portion. This time around, only one player was selected. The Philadelphia Phillies, in the minor league portion of the draft, selected right-handed pitcher Jared Mortensen so he is not bound to the 25-man roster.

Mortensen, a right-handed knuckleball pitcher is expected to begin the season in either Triple-A or Double-A. Last season with Double-A Montgomery, the 29-year-old had a 5.23 ERA in 72 1/3, striking out 10.7 batters per nine innings but also walking 7.1.

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The Rays were worried that they might lose Yonny Chirinos who went 12-4 with a 3.36 ERA in 29 games (17 starts) while pitching for Class-A Bowling Green, Class-A Advanced Charlotte and Double-A Montgomery.

Players selected in the minor portion of the draft will cost the selecting team $24,000 so for $48,000 the Rays selected right-handed pitcher Ty Hensley from the Yankees and right-handed pitcher Jairo Munoz from the Phillies.

Hensley, a former first-round pick (20th overall, 2012) needed a second Tommy John surgery last May and is on a timetable to return in the second half of the 2017 season. Since 2012, Hensley has made just 14 minor league starts due to numerous injuries, hip impingement surgery cost him all of 2013, his first Tommy John cost him 2015, then last spring a setback in his rehab from his TJ surgery in 2015 resulted in another TJ surgery.

Munoz pitched in only seven games in 2016, going 0-1 with a 1.00 ERA in his limited amount of work with the Gulf Coast Phillies and Single-A Clearwater. He missed most of the season with a strained elbow.

The Rays will need to make a corresponding move on the 40-man roster, in regards to the impending signing of Wilson Ramos. Speculation on my part is that Tim Beckham, though tendered a contract could be the odd-man out. Beckham is out of minor league options and as a Super 2 arbitration eligible player is projected to make $1.15 million – that is double what he earned in 2016.

Interesting news comes out of Seattle… On Wednesday, the Mariners acquired pitcher Chris Heston from the San Francisco Giants in exchange for a player to be named later. However, the Mariners had to make a corresponding move on their 40-man roster and did so by designating Richie Shaffer for assignment.

Next: Tampa Bay Rays Rumors: Colome, Ramirez Drawing Interest

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It was on November 18, that the Rays traded Shaffer along with Tyler Motter to Seattle for three minor prospects. Just makes you wonder…