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Rays trade for Brett Phillips from Royals

@juanctoribio
August 27, 2020

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays are expected to be one of the busiest teams in the Majors with Monday's Trade Deadline looming, and they got things started on Thursday by acquiring outfielder Brett Phillips from the Royals for infield prospect Lucius Fox. Phillips, 26, is hitting .226 this season, though

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays are expected to be one of the busiest teams in the Majors with Monday's Trade Deadline looming, and they got things started on Thursday by acquiring outfielder Brett Phillips from the Royals for infield prospect Lucius Fox.

Phillips, 26, is hitting .226 this season, though that has come in just 34 at-bats. Throughout his career, Phillips, a left-handed hitter, has a career OPS of .626 and has shown the ability to play plus defense at all three outfield spots.

Acquiring Phillips comes as a bit of a surprise for a Rays team that has a lot of quality outfielders on the roster and has Randy Arozarena waiting at the alternate training site. But with Phillips, the Rays believe they’ve acquired a good defender with some offensive upside.

Last season in Triple-A Omaha, Phillips hit 18 home runs and finished with an .883 OPS. That power and production hasn’t translated to the Majors, but the Rays are hoping that some numbers indicate that he can improve at the plate.

On 23 batted balls this season -- again, small sample size -- Phillips has an expected batting average of .264 and his strikeout percentage has declined from 29.1% to 23.5%. However, his average exit velocity is just 81.4 mph this season, compared to an 87.6 mph clip last season.

Phillips also has a connection to the area as he attended Seminole High School in Seminole, Fla. An added bonus: He has the best laugh in baseball.

One important reason the Rays felt comfortable trading Fox away for Phillips is the fact that the latter isn’t arbitration-eligible until the 2022 season, meaning that the Rays will have Phillips on a good deal for a couple of seasons. One issue, however, is that Phillips is out of options, so he would have to stay on the active roster.

Trading Fox, who was the organization’s No. 26 prospect, was a tough decision for the Rays, but one that made sense. Fox was occupying a spot on the 40-man roster and was likely behind a plethora of options in the infield and center field, where he got some reps during Spring Training.

Trading for Phillips was a surprise move for the Rays, but it indicates that the club is open to making deals despite the shortened season. Expect the Rays to continue to be active, especially in the pitching market, over the next couple of days.

Juan Toribio covers the Rays for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @juanctoribio.