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Rays lose Smith, keep Ciuffo in Rule 5 Draft

MLB.com @wwchastain

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Heading into Thursday's 2017 Rule 5 Draft, the Rays were braced to lose catcher Nick Ciuffo and right-hander Burch Smith in the Major League phase.

They only lost Smith, who was selected by the Mets, who then traded him to the Royals. The Rays didn't make a selection in the Major League portion of the Rule 5 Draft.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Heading into Thursday's 2017 Rule 5 Draft, the Rays were braced to lose catcher Nick Ciuffo and right-hander Burch Smith in the Major League phase.

They only lost Smith, who was selected by the Mets, who then traded him to the Royals. The Rays didn't make a selection in the Major League portion of the Rule 5 Draft.

:: Rule 5 Draft coverage ::

Both players were left unprotected off Tampa Bay's 40-man roster, which opened the door for other teams to select them. The Rays will be paid a claiming fee of $100,000, and Smith will have to remain on the Royals' 25-man Major League roster for the length of the 2018 regular season. If Kansas City decides not to keep Smith on its Major League roster, he will be offered back to Tampa Bay for $50,000.

The Rays acquired Smith from the Padres in the Dec. 19, 2014, three-team trade with the Padres and Nationals in which Wil Myers and Ryan Hanigan went to the Padres, Steven Souza Jr. was dealt from the Nationals to the Rays and Rene Rivera came to the Rays from the Padres.

Smith, 27, battled back after missing two-plus seasons with arm issues to go 5-3 with a 2.40 ERA in 13 appearances (12 starts) for the Gulf Coast Rays, Class A Charlotte and Triple-A Durham in 2017. He followed that up by performing well in the Arizona Fall League. Overall, he is 20-14 with a 3.45 ERA in 61 games (58 starts) over five seasons in the Minors.

"We knew there was a chance we were going to lose him," Rays senior vice president Chaim Bloom said. "Obviously, we would have liked to have kept him. But the other thing we don't want to lose sight of -- we were really happy for Burch to get this opportunity.

"This is a guy who, at one point on this long journey back from his injury, there were some questions whether he was going to be able to pitch. And for him to get to do what he did in the Fall League, and now have this opportunity to make a Major League club in Spring Training is pretty cool for him."

The Rays drafted Ciuffo, 22, in the first round of the 2013 Draft (21st overall). In five Minor League seasons, he has hit .248 with 12 homers and 134 RBIs while playing solid defense. He played for Double-A Montgomery last season, hitting .245 with seven home runs and 42 RBIs.

"We said when we left him off that it was a calculated gamble," Bloom said. "We like Nick and we think Nick is a Major League prospect. We were just taking a gamble that it wasn't his time yet, and we were hoping to be able to keep him here and give him the opportunity in our system to keep progressing. He did make strides this year, and we're really happy that we were able to keep him, and [we're] looking forward to giving him more opportunity next year."

In the Minor League phase of the Draft, the Rays selected right-hander Francisco German out of the Tigers' organization.

German, 20, is 6-foot-2 and 160 pounds and hails from Sabana Grande de Palenque, Dominican Republic. In 50 Minor League games (14 starts), he is 8-7 with a 3.26 ERA with 132 strikeouts and 58 walks in 127 innings.

"He was a guy our scouts liked," Rays' assistant director of Minor Leagues Jeff McLerran said. "Still pretty young for someone in the Minor League phase. ... He has a loose, quick arm. Just relatively inexperienced. ... But somebody we'd like to give to our pitching coaches and give them a chance to work with him."

Players selected from the Rays' organization during the Minor League phase include: shortstop Riley Unroe (Angels), outfielder Angel Moreno (Cardinals) and catcher Rafaelin Lorenzon (Pirates).

"They all sting," McLerran said. "These are guys that our staff has put a lot of time and effort into. We've had them for years down at our academies. And like Riley, coming to us from high school in the Draft. ... It's just kind of the nature of our system. We think we're pretty deep, so there are some good players that we just aren't going to have room for on our rosters, and this way they get a better chance."

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2004.

Tampa Bay Rays