Rays show power in win, land it in trade for Peralta

July 30th, 2022

ST. PETERSBURG -- Saturday was an encouraging day for the Rays’ scuffling, injury-depleted lineup.

First, they saw Brandon Lowe and Yandy Díaz bash a couple of two-run homers to support veteran starter Corey Kluber’s 10-strikeout performance in a 6-4 win over the Guardians. That snapped a two-game losing streak during which Tampa Bay managed just one run on 10 hits, all singles, and further lightened the mood in the home clubhouse at Tropicana Field.

Then, just after Pete Fairbanks struck out José Ramírez to record the final out came some more good news: The Rays acquired outfielder David Peralta from the D-backs for catching prospect Christian Cerda, bringing aboard a veteran hitter to bolster their lineup.

“He has a history of offensive performance that we really like, and we think he's somebody that can kind of stabilize our lineup,” Rays GM Peter Bendix said. “Good, well-rounded baseball player.”

The trade brought a whirlwind of emotions for the 34-year-old Peralta, who is expected to join Tampa Bay for Sunday’s series finale against Cleveland. He has spent his entire nine-year Major League career with Arizona, playing 961 games for the D-backs from his debut on June 1, 2014, until his last game on Friday. But that tenure included only one trip to the postseason in 2017, which ended in a three-game NLDS sweep.

With the Rays, Peralta has a new team and a new lease on life in the playoffs. Their win on Saturday gave them a 2 1/2-game edge over the Guardians for the final American League Wild Card spot.

“My reaction was, like, shock. I’ve been my whole career with this team, and it was a sad moment for me,” Peralta said by phone from Atlanta. “On the other side, I was really excited and happy that the Rays were interested in me and believe that I can help them get into the playoffs.”

Peralta is hitting .248/.316/.460 with 12 homers in 87 games this season. He’s been particularly effective when facing right-handers, with a career .296/.351/.492 slash line and a .268/.325/.498 mark this year. Bendix said Peralta will play “a lot” in left field, with some time at DH, and Peralta said he’d be open to time in right field, where he last played regularly in 2017.

The Rays’ current outfield mix includes Randy Arozarena, Brett Phillips, Josh Lowe, Luke Raley and Roman Quinn. The club will make a corresponding roster move after Peralta arrives.

Tampa Bay's lineup has been devastated by injuries all season. The Rays will be without catcher Mike Zunino and center fielder Kevin Kiermaier for the rest of the year, and they won’t see the return of shortstop Wander Franco, outfielder Manuel Margot or outfielder/DH Harold Ramírez until mid-to-late August at the earliest.

While their bats broke out a bit against the Guardians on Saturday, a showing highlighted by the much-needed two-run homers from Lowe and Díaz, it became clear as the injuries piled up that they needed reinforcements before Tuesday’s Trade Deadline.

“We've had a lot of injuries, and we're relying on a lot of young guys who haven't necessarily performed the way that we know that they're capable of,” Bendix said. “Adding somebody who has a history of being able to do that, hopefully, that has an effect on the other players, in addition to just himself as well.”

Adding Peralta and eventually getting back Franco, Margot and Ramírez should go a long way toward improving the lineup.

“He's a really good hitter, from what I've seen so far,” Díaz said through interpreter Manny Navarro, “and I think he's really going to be able to help us in this lineup.”

The Rays will pick up the remainder of the $8 million Peralta was owed this season as part of the three-year, $22 million extension he signed in January 2020. To get him, they parted with Cerda, a 19-year-old catcher hitting .315/.464/.519 in the Rookie-level Florida Complex League.

The Trade Deadline is Tuesday at 6 p.m. ET. The Rays are known to be pursuing offensive help and potentially another catcher, and they’re always on the lookout for more arms. What could the next three days bring?

“Oh, there's always irons in the fire,” Bendix said, smiling. “We're talking and listening on everything and everybody. I think most teams in baseball are doing the same. Never know what's going to come together, but we're going to try to make this team as good as we can.”