ST. PETERSBURG -- Throughout the offseason, the baseball world has waited for the Rays to trade one of their coveted starting pitchers. That became a reality Wednesday, when they sent Drew Smyly to the Mariners.
In exchange for the left-hander, the Rays got outfielder Mallex Smith, Minor League shortstop Carlos Vargas and Minor League left-hander Ryan Yarbrough.
"You have to give up something to get something," said Rays senior vice president of baseball operations/general manager Erik Neander. "But the type of deal we made, the return we got, we thought was something that made sense for us. We're eager to see how it plays out from here.
"We are heavier with starting pitching than we are in some other areas. And this is an opportunity for us. One of the goals we set out to accomplish this winter was to put ourselves in position to be competitive in 2017, and we're really doing everything we can to increase competition within our group, be more dynamic and have a greater mix and see how it shakes out."
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The 23-year-old Smith, who hit .238/.316/.365 in 72 games last season with the Braves, was acquired by Seattle from Atlanta earlier Wednesday afternoon. He will join a competitive outfield mix that includes Kevin Kiermaier, Steven Souza Jr., Corey Dickerson, Colby Rasmus and Michael Mahtook.
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"We're really excited to add Mallex to our organization," Neander said. "He's a very dynamic player. He's an impact athlete. He's in his early 20s with a lot of time ahead of him. We're thrilled to bring him into our organization."
Last season, Smith played 35 games in center field, 22 in left and one in right. His season was shortened by nearly three months due to a fractured left thumb.
Smith will bring some speed to the Rays. His 16 stolen bases ranked fifth among Major League rookies. He is a career .297/.383/.392 hitter over parts of five Minor League seasons, having recorded 230 stolen bases across 399 games including a Minor League-leading 88 steals in 2014.
"Looking at Mallex, this is the guy who is a very capable basestealer, who is an impact athlete," Neander said. "The speed and the game he plays, he's very dynamic. It adds value on both sides of the ball.
"Again, I think to diversify our group, to add competition and to do it with someone who is young and we think is still on his way up really excites us."
Smith was born in Tallahassee, Fla., and he was selected by the Padres in the fifth round of the 2012 Draft out of Santa Fe Community College in Gainesville.
Vargas, 17, hit .242/.344/.391 with 41 runs scored, seven home runs and 35 RBIs in 62 games with the DSL Mariners in 2016.
"[It was] an opportunity to get a player that we really like," Neander said when asked about acquiring Vargas. "Granted, very far away and a lot of distance away from where he is and the Major League level. But [he is] a player that is very dynamic."
Yarbrough, 25, spent the 2016 season with Double-A Jackson and was named Southern League Pitcher of the Year, going 12-4 with a 2.95 ERA in 25 starts. He tied for the SL lead in wins, ranked second in ERA and WHIP, and ranked third in opponents' average. He was born in Lakeland, Fla., and was selected by the Mariners in the fourth round of the 2014 Draft. He has gone 16-13 with a 3.09 ERA in parts of three Minor League seasons.
"[Yarbrough is] somebody that had a really nice year in Double-A who we think is not that far off from helping us at the big league level," Neander said.
The 27-year-old Smyly, who was acquired in the 2014 trade that sent David Price to the Tigers, went 7-12 with a 4.88 ERA in 30 starts for the Rays in 2016, establishing career highs in starts, innings pitched and strikeouts. Over his final 12 starts, he went 5-1 with a 3.73 ERA.
Neander talked to Smyly and said the southpaw showed nothing but class taking the news.
"I had a chance to let him know we believe he still has a lot of baseball ahead of him, his best baseball, frankly, I think, ahead of him," Neander said. "And [I] wished him nothing but the best for what he's done here and will continue to do so going forward. And he was gerat with us in return."
Over parts of three seasons with Tampa Bay, Smyly went 15-15 with a 3.95 ERA and 288 strikeouts in 49 starts.