Breaking: Tampa Bay Rays add 5 to roster at deadline

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 18: C.J. Cron #44 of the Tampa Bay Rays rounds the bases after hitting a two-run home run in the sixth inning of a game at Fenway Park on August 18, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 18: C.J. Cron #44 of the Tampa Bay Rays rounds the bases after hitting a two-run home run in the sixth inning of a game at Fenway Park on August 18, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images) /

In what is the first of many last minute moves made by the Tampa Bay Rays , C.J. Cron has been DFA’d in an effort to clear space on the 40-man roster so they could protect 4-6 coveted prospects.

In addition to designating C.J. Cron for assignment, the Tampa Bay Rays also designated Holby Milner and Oliver Drake for assignment. Their final move came as they chose to outright Jose Mujica to Durham.

In addition to dealing Chih-Wei Hu on Monday, the Rays officially cleared five spots on their 40-man roster, as was the plan. The Rays decided to wait until the last-minute, as they usually do whenever there is a deadline to be met.

With the five open roster spots, the Rays added Rule 5 draft eligible prospects Kyle Bird, Brock Burke, Ian Gibaut, Joe McCarthy, and Jesus Sanchez. They chose to leave prospect Kean Wong unprotected for this years upcoming draft.

Surprising Move: Cron

In a surprising move, they designated C.J. Cron for assignment in an effort to make roster room. Not that I expected C.J. Cron to be the starting first baseman come opening day, but I did at least expect them to find a trade partner for him prior to today’s deadline, or to even keep him on the roster up until the end of the month which marks the non-tender deadline.

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This doesn’t mean that they won’t trade Cron, but now as he has been DFA’d, the Rays only have seven days to trade the slugger. And according to Marc Topkin, the Rays believe it is more likely he will become a free agent.

On paper it looks like a surprising move, but it was probably to be expected.

Expected Moves:

With the possibility of Colin Poche, Ian Gibaut, and Kyle Bird all helping the Rays out of the pen this coming season, I expected the Rays to either trade or designate Holby Milner and Oliver Drake for assignment.

Although, they just acquired Drake this offseason, I didn’t see him fitting in the Rays 2019 pen which is already going to be packed with young guns. Holby Miner was acquired last year and only made 4 appearances for the Rays in 2018.

The choice to outright Jose Mujica to Triple-A Durham most likely came easily to the Rays. Mujica pitched well at Durham last year, making 7 starts and finishing with a 2.70 ERA. At only 22, the Rays will likely be looking to continue Mujica’s development.

Who got added?

Left handers Brock Burke and Kyle Bird were both added at the deadline for the Rays. Across both High-A and Double-A, Brock Burke finished with a 3.08 ERA with 158 strikeouts over 137.1 innings pitched. Kyle Bird who may reach the majors this year was outstanding across Double and Triple-A for the Rays this year. He finished with a 2.39 ERA with 88 strikeouts over 77.1 innings on the mound.

Right hander Ian Gibaut could very well break camp with the Rays as a late inning reliever and therefore they needed to protect the right hander prior to the Rule 5 draft. He was dominant at Durham this year with a 2.09 ERA and 75 k’s in just 56 innings of work.

2018 Rays #4 prospect overall, Jesus Sanchez was a sure bet to be added, and he was. With a huge ceiling and time to mature with the Rays outfield full at the moment, look for the Rays to slowly move Sanchez along giving him time at Double and Triple-A in the coming years.

Finally, Joe McCarthy was added to the 40-man roster. McCarthy, when healthy has come into considerable power and could break camp with the Rays as the clubs 4th outfielder. If he doesn’t, he will provide great trade value to the Rays as they look to fill the 30 bomb void left by Cron.

Final Thoughts

None of the moves they made left me shocked, I was a little surprised to see Kean Wong left unprotected, but he is blocked at the major league level. Look for the Rays to push his name in trade talks prior to the draft.

I am happy the Rays kept Chaz Roe, it is now likely that they won’t non-tender the right-hander with a wipeout slider. It was a concern of mine, that they might opt to move on from the late inning reliever, who I believe could prove to be very valuable in late innings in 2019.

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In true Tampa Bay Rays fashion, they waited till the last possible minute to make their moves official but I am happy with the moves they made. Be on the lookout for Cron trade rumors to begin to swirl over the next week.