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As talks continue, Rays settle for minor moves

'Nothing at the 1-yard line' on trades; club prepared to lose Ciuffo, Smith in Rule 5 Draft
MLB.com @wwchastain

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Major League Baseball's Rule 5 Draft was on the minds of many on Day 3 of the Winter Meetings. Many expect the Rays to lose two players, catcher Nick Ciuffo and right-hander Burch Smith, by the time the Major League phase is completed Thursday morning.

Both players were left unprotected on the Rays' 40-man roster, which would open the door for another team to select either or both. If a Major League team does claim either player, it would pay the Rays a fee of $100,000 and would have to keep the player on its 25-man active Major League roster for the length of the season. If that club decided not to keep the player on its big league roster, he would be offered back to the Rays for $50,000.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Major League Baseball's Rule 5 Draft was on the minds of many on Day 3 of the Winter Meetings. Many expect the Rays to lose two players, catcher Nick Ciuffo and right-hander Burch Smith, by the time the Major League phase is completed Thursday morning.

Both players were left unprotected on the Rays' 40-man roster, which would open the door for another team to select either or both. If a Major League team does claim either player, it would pay the Rays a fee of $100,000 and would have to keep the player on its 25-man active Major League roster for the length of the season. If that club decided not to keep the player on its big league roster, he would be offered back to the Rays for $50,000.

Rays senior vice president Chaim Bloom said the Rays were "braced" for losing either or both players.

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"There's so much talk about what could or couldn't happen, that you never really want to believe that anything is done until you hear the player's name called tomorrow," Bloom said. "When you leave somebody off your roster, there is a chance that they get selected. And you have to be able to live with that."

Bloom added that the Rays could look back at some point in the future and wish they would not have lost the player.

"But even tomorrow, should we lose someone, there's still a chance that we get them back," Bloom said. "A big part of [how the Rays set their roster was] roster flexibility."

Tampa Bay drafted Ciuffo, 22, in the first round of the 2013 Draft (21st overall). In five Minor League seasons, the Rays' No. 25 prospect, according to MLBPipeline.com has hit .248 with 12 homers and 134 RBIs while playing solid defense. He played for Double-A Montgomery this past season, for which he hit .245 with seven home runs and 42 RBIs.

Video: Prospect Spotlight: Ciuffo

The Rays acquired Smith from San Diego in the Dec. 19, 2014, three-team trade with the Padres and Nationals that saw Wil Myers and Ryan Hanigan go to the Padres, Steven Souza Jr. come to the Rays from the Nats and catcher Rene Rivera arrive from San Diego.

Smith, 27, has fought back after missing two-plus seasons with arm issues to go 5-3 with a 2.40 ERA in 13 appearances for the Gulf Coast Rays, Class A Charlotte and Triple-A Durham this past season. He followed that by performing well in the Arizona Fall League.

Meanwhile, the Rays continue to be one of the more talked about teams on the brink of trading some of its quality players such as Chris Archer, Evan Longoria, Alex Colome and Jake Odorizzi. But to date, they have only completed minor trades.

On Wednesday, the Rays made their third trade of the week when they sent left-hander Anthony Misiewicz to the Mariners in exchange for international slot money.

But talks for trades of a larger magnitude continued on Wednesday as well.

Bloom allowed that "the pace of conversations has been very steady on a lot of fronts."

"Some are moving on to where [the Rays have an] idea about what's real and what isn't," said Bloom, noting that some have moved to "more advanced stages" but "nothing at the 1-yard line."

When asked whether the Rays were making progress on new deals or deals they've been discussing for a while, Bloom answered, "Kind of a mix."

"As you would expect, a lot the players of ours that teams are asking about are the same players they've been asking about," Bloom said. "We're fortunate to have a number of players who are in demand that other teams have interest in.

"There have been some new concepts that have surfaced since we've gotten here. There's also been some things that have been previously discussed that have come back around, or been altered somewhat. It's been a healthy mix of all of those."

A lot of attention has been focused on certain Rays players, given the fact other teams are aware of the club's payroll constraints, and that has led to many conversations.

"You don't want to leave any stone unturned," Bloom said. "And you don't want to be afraid to target other players who might fit us well, whether now or in the future.

"In this environment, so many conversations happen, and you don't want to miss an opportunity. And if there's someone we like elsewhere who might be in play, then we're also making sure to try and be factored in for those players."

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2005.

Tampa Bay Rays