ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays have already had to make some tough decisions this offseason, parting with a handful of players who held key roles on their American League East championship club this year. Facing a roster crunch before Friday’s deadline to protect prospects from next month's Rule 5 Draft, they made another series of moves to reshape the back end of their 40-man roster.
Tampa Bay had already been busy this week, shipping infielder Mike Brosseau to Milwaukee for Minor League righty Evan Reifert last Saturday and moving reliever Louis Head to Miami for a player to be named later or cash a day later. Then came a flurry of moves before Friday’s deadline, as the Rays added infielder Jonathan Aranda, catcher/infielder Ford Proctor (the club's No. 30 prospect per MLB Pipeline) and right-handers Calvin Faucher and Tommy Romero (No. 18) to their 40-man roster.
To clear space on the roster, the Rays unconditionally released left-hander Dietrich Enns (who is set to join a team in Japan) and traded right-hander Brent Honeywell Jr. -- who was their No. 22 prospect and once one of the game’s top overall pitching prospects -- to the A’s for cash considerations. In a separate deal, Tampa Bay traded Rule 5 Draft-eligible right-hander Tobias Myers to Cleveland for 18-year-old infielder Junior Caminero.
Those difficult decisions -- moving talented players to make room for others -- come with the territory for the Rays, given their deep big league roster and loaded farm system.
“It's part of this business. It's part of the industry,” Rays senior director of pro personnel and pro scouting Kevin Ibach said on a Zoom call. “And it's never fun, but you try to do right by the player. You obviously try to do right by the organization. … It's just that we do have a deep system, and we do have a lot of talented players.”
Let’s look at each decision the Rays made on Friday, in advance of the Dec. 8 Rule 5 Draft.
Adding Aranda, Proctor, Faucher and Romero
Aranda won the Double-A South Most Valuable Player Award and was named Double-A Montgomery’s team MVP this year. The 23-year-old infielder slashed .330/.418/.543 with 14 homers and 65 RBIs in 100 games between High-A Bowling Green and Montgomery.
“Really competitive at-bats. I think he grinds out at-bats as well as anyone we have in our system,” Ibach said. “We can always use more of that at the big league level, certainly on the 40-man roster, so it was a nice reward for him and the offensive year that he had.”
Proctor, 24, is a natural middle infielder who began catching in an independent league and in Australia last year. He made 57 starts behind the plate, 24 at shortstop, five at third base and three at second base for Montgomery, and his offensive performance ticked up as he hit .299/.419/.522 in his final 62 games this year. Tampa Bay previously added catcher René Pinto to the 40-man roster, so Proctor provides more catching depth behind Mike Zunino and Francisco Mejía.
“The strides he made were really incredible. Still has a long road ahead of him to continue to work, but he’s got the work ethic, the mindset, the aptitude,” Ibach said. “He’s a really smart kid, and he’s got all the intangibles that will help the transition take place. So this was a really nice reward for him to be able to get put on the roster.”
The Rays acquired Faucher on July 22 as part of the Nelson Cruz trade with the Twins. After making two scoreless appearances for Montgomery, the 26-year-old posted a 1.77 ERA with 26 strikeouts in 20 1/3 innings over 11 outings for Triple-A Durham. Ibach said the Rays were encouraged by how Faucher used his breaking balls, and they expect him to compete for a spot in their bullpen next year.
Romero, 24, posted a 2.61 ERA in 23 outings between Montgomery and Durham this year. The right-hander, acquired from the Mariners in May 2018, was previously named the 2019 Florida State League Pitcher of the Year. Having made 12 starts for Durham this year, he’s likely not far away from the Majors, but he’ll have to continue sharpening his secondary stuff to complement his bread-and-butter fastball.
“He finished about as strong as any pitcher in our system over the last month of the year and solidified his spot on the roster,” Ibach said. “Just a lot of good ingredients. We’re an organization that preaches throwing strikes, and that’s one thing that Tommy does really well. He competes in the zone.”
Releasing Enns and trading Honeywell
Enns was one of the Rays’ many great stories this season, taking an unusual path from independent ball to the Majors. But the lefty would have been out of options next season, making it difficult to guarantee a spot on Tampa Bay’s staff. Presented with a guaranteed contract from an unspecified team in Japan, Enns decided that was the best path forward for him and his family, and the Rays released him to pursue that opportunity.
Honeywell will also be out of options next season. Needing a roster spot, the Rays sought a trade that would send the former top prospect -- who made his MLB debut in April after missing 3 1/2 years due to four elbow surgeries -- somewhere he can pitch on a regular basis.
“I think he’ll have an opportunity to go somewhere now and take the ball,” Ibach said. “Oakland deploys their pitching staff in very similar ways that we do, so I think it should be a seamless adjustment for him. … Happy for him to go somewhere and pitch on a regular basis.”
Trading Myers for Caminero
Myers was Tampa Bay's No. 29 prospect and might have been selected in the Rule 5 Draft if left unprotected, given his proximity to the Majors. Ibach said the Rays heard from “almost every team in baseball” with interest in Myers, then a deal came together with the Guardians on Friday.
By moving Myers, Tampa Bay bypassed the risk of losing him for nothing and added Caminero, who hit .295/.380/.534 with nine homers, 20 walks and 28 strikeouts in 43 games in the Dominican Summer League this past season. Ibach said the Rays were interested in Caminero as an amateur and that they're impressed by his bat speed and power at a young age, noting, “There’s going to be some damage to be had at the plate.”