NEW YORK -- The Rays are buyers.
They confirmed their status Thursday with a giant exclamation point.
In the morning they traded Minor League first baseman Casey Gillaspie to the White Sox for Dan Jennings, a much-needed left-handed reliever. Then, just prior to the team's game against the Yankees, the Rays traded Minor League right-hander Drew Smith to the Mets to acquire first baseman Lucas Duda.
"These were two guys that we really thought could help us that could fill important roles on our club and make it stronger going down the stretch," said Rays senior vice president of baseball operations Chaim Bloom. "At this time of the year, you're looking to make whatever upgrades you can when you're in the position that we're fortunate to find ourselves in. And it's all a question how impactful you think the guys that you're able to bring in [can be], and what you have to give up to get them. And in these two cases we felt like that all matched up."
Duda will add a power bat to the lineup and he can play first base or designated hitter.
"I would expect he'd primarily DH, just given the work that [Logan Morrison] has done at first base," Bloom said. "Obviously, [Morrison has] been terrific over there. And we expect to see him play there the bulk of the time."
When asked about how he planned to use Jennings, Rays manager Kevin Cash said "he'll float a little bit."
"We're going to ask him to get lefties out," Cash said. "We have confidence that he will pitch to some righties. But where we see that need -- where there's a couple of lefties clumped together, whether it's in the sixth inning or the eighth inning. I don't think we have anything that's stapled into our bullpen other than Alex [Colome] being in that ninth inning. Kind of how we've used Tommy Hunter, even though he's right-handed."
To make room on the 40-man roster for Jennings, right-hander Diego Moreno was designated for assignment. Outfielder Player Page for Shane Peterson was designated for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster for Duda and on the 25-man roster for Jennings. Two additional roster moves will need to be made on Friday to accommodate the additions to the 25-man roster of Duda and right-hander Austin Pruitt, who will start Friday in place of injured right-hander Jake Odorizzi.
After losing their fifth straight game this past Monday, Tampa Bay appeared to be on the cusp of becoming sellers rather than buyers prior to this coming Monday's non-waiver Trade Deadline. Then the Rays won the final two games of their three-game series against the Orioles, leaving them in third place in the American League East, 2 1/2 games behind the first-place Red Sox and one game behind the Royals for the second AL Wild Card spot as they began a big four-game series against the Yankees on Thursday.
The trade "takes maybe that little thought that we've had, that belief that we've had in each other and in this team, and it makes it real," Alex Cobb said. "It's like, 'OK, it's not just us that sees it.' The front office, just from being around this organization, they have to really see something to go out and get players. And that's now been confirmed."
Jennings, 30, was 3-1 with a 3.45 ERA and 38 strikeouts in 44 1/3 innings for the White Sox this season. A six-year veteran who began his career with the Marlins, he has a 2.86 ERA in 261 1/3 innings over the course of his career.
Jennings said he got news of the trade late Wednesday night.
"So I was very excited," Jennings said. "I've called Florida home for the last seven years. Just very excited to come back. I've always enjoyed playing in Tampa and now I'll call the place home.
"... Very excited to see what this year brings, and not only this year, but years to come."
Duda, 31, hit .246/.347/.532 with 17 home runs and 37 RBIs in 75 games with the Mets this season. He was batting .283 in 13 games since the All-Star break, compared to .238 in the first half. Over his eight-year career, all with the Mets, Duda is hitting .246/.343/.457 with 125 home runs and 378 RBIs, and 105 of those home runs have come against right-handed pitching.
Gillaspie was drafted in the first round in 2014 by Tampa Bay. The 24-year-old was hitting .227 with nine home runs and 44 RBIs in 95 games for Triple-A Durham. A 6-foot-4, 240-pound switch-hitter, he brings plus power potential at the dish while playing solid defense at first base. Gillaspie was the Rays' No. 10 prospect, as ranked by MLBPipeline.com.
Smith, 23, came to the Rays' organization in late April this season as the player to be named for outfielder Michael Mahtook. Between the two organizations and four Minor League teams this season, he is 1-2 with a 1.60 ERA and seven saves in 31 appearances. He was ranked No. 30 on the Rays' Top Prospects list.