Another Rays trade as Rule 5 Draft nears

Tampa Bay sends reliever Head to Miami to clear more roster space

November 15th, 2021

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays traded right-hander to the Marlins on Sunday, receiving a player to be named or cash in return, as they continue to clear space on their 40-man roster prior to Friday’s deadline to protect prospects from the Rule 5 Draft.

This was the second such move the Rays made over the weekend, as they dealt utility infielder Mike Brosseau to the Brewers for Minor League pitcher Evan Reifert on Saturday. They now have two open spots on their 40-man roster. They’ll likely want to protect more than two Rule 5 Draft-eligible prospects from their loaded farm system, so there are presumably even more moves in store for this week.

A year ago, after being released by the Mariners, Head thought his career might be over. He was drafted in 2012 but, with his 31st birthday drawing near, he hadn’t yet pitched in the Majors. No teams were expressing interest. He was selling solar panels door to door in Arizona, working out three times a week -- more so to stay in shape than to get ready for another season -- and preparing for life after baseball.

Then the Rays called.

Head scrambled to get himself back into pitching shape. His wife, Jenny, watched him throw a bullpen session in front of Rays scout Mike Brown 10 days later. As they left, Head told Jenny, “There’s no way they’re signing me. He definitely saw that I’m not ready.” But Brown relayed that he liked what he saw from the right-handed reliever’s slider, Head said, and “he just had a good feeling about it.”

“The rest is kind of history after that,” Head said.

He signed a Minor League deal with an invitation to big league Spring Training and thrived all season despite a complete lack of rhythm and routine. The reliever made his long-awaited Major League debut on April 25, his 31st birthday, the first of 12 times he was called up and sent down throughout the year.

Head repeatedly earned praise from the Rays for the role he played. He pitched 35 innings over 27 appearances with a 2.31 ERA and 0.86 WHIP for Tampa Bay, and he put together a 2.20 ERA and 1.05 WHIP in 26 outings for Triple-A Durham. He was a key part of Tampa Bay’s season-defining depth, to the point that multiple players and staff brought him up amid the Rays’ American League East-clinching celebration.

Now, he’s moving on to Miami having proven himself as a Major League-caliber pitcher.

“I'm in a far better spot this year than I've ever been,” Head said in late September. “Whether I'm in Triple-A with Durham or I'm in the big leagues, I'm still on the 40-man. So regardless, I'm in a far better spot than I've ever been in in my career.

“It's not even a matter of hoping. It's just a matter of when. If you're in this organization, you are here for a reason, and they're going to call you up at some point. If you're not called up, you're probably going to get traded and get called up by somebody else. And you see everybody around the league who's gone from this organization go to other teams, and they've had success.”