4 key takeaways from Rays' Deadline moves

August 1st, 2019

BOSTON -- Most of the fireworks didn’t come until the very end, with three of the four trades made on Wednesday coming right at the 4 p.m. ET Trade Deadline, but at the end of the day the Rays felt that they ended the day better than how they started it.

The Deadline push started with the Rays acquiring infielder from the Blue Jays on Sunday in order to add more contact to the lineup and trading Hunter Wood and Christian Arroyo to the Indians in order to clear roster space. But most of the activity, as expected, happened late into the day on Wednesday.

In what turned out to be a busy day, the Rays acquired first baseman Jesus Aguilar from Milwaukee, pitchers and from Miami, prospects Niko Hulsizer and Jacob Lopez from the Dodgers and Giants, respectively, and 31-year-old Minor League catcher Rocky Gale from Los Angeles.

On the other hand, however, the Rays traded and No. 4 prospect Jesus Sanchez to Miami, to the Dodgers, to the Brewers and to the Giants.

“Jose Aguilar, Eric Sogard and Nick Anderson are three really, really good Major League players, two of them with a lot of experience and one that’s shown a high-end back-end relief-pitcher profile,” said Rays general manager Erik Neander. “Those are things that on our current active roster we had room for improvement. I think it’s pretty clear cut in that regard, at least in our mind, how we improved ourselves.”

There’s a lot to unpack with all the movement, so let’s take a look at four things we learned after a busy Trade Deadline for the Rays.

Adding a right-handed bat was a priority
While most of the attention was on the bullpen, it became clear that the front office valued adding a power right-handed hitter just as much, if not more, than adding pieces to the bullpen.

By adding Aguilar, the Rays feel they accomplished what they set out to do. Aguilar has struggled this season, hitting .225 with just eight home runs, but Tampa Bay is hopeful that the 29-year-old can return to being the player that hit 35 home runs just a season ago.

“Taking a close look at the ingredients under the hood, we see a lot of reason to believe that there’s life there,” Neander said. “This is someone that is coming off a 35-homer, 100-RBI All-Star [season] and postseason experience just a year ago. He’s someone that we feel has great makeup, great character and an obvious need.”

Rays believe Anderson improves the back end of the bullpen
It was going to take a good haul for the Rays to part ways with Stanek and Sanchez. Stanek has been a huge part of the Rays over the last two seasons serving as the primary opener, and Sanchez is a young outfielder that the organization was really high on. But it was a price that the Rays felt they had to pay in order to get Anderson and Richards from Miami.

With Anderson in particular, the Rays think he has the ability to become a high-leverage reliever in the bullpen, joining Emilio Pagan, Diego Castillo, Colin Poche and Chaz Roe. The 29-year-old has 69 strikeouts in just 43 2/3 innings and has a good fastball-curveball combination.

“The fastball, breaking-ball mix and the fastball play big,” Neander said. “High end, elite-level strikeouts, keeps his walks down and look forward to having him in our big league bullpen. We believe this is someone that can make a big impact for us, not just for this year, but for years to come.”

Injuries played a part in the decisions
Neander admitted that some of the decisions leading into the Deadline had to do with some of the current injuries on the roster. Missing Brandon Lowe and Yandy Diaz in the lineup have been big blows, and now Joey Wendle is on the injured list for the third time with right wrist inflammation.

“It’s a factor,” Neander said on the injuries. “Our position-player group, the depth, the versatility, but the reality is the last time they were all healthy at the same time and active was the first half of Spring Training. We haven’t had the opportunity to see them all play together. August, September, what you have right now -- this is what you got more or less the rest of the way. The superstar adds and those things are fun, but just as important is making sure you don’t fall off when you guys are out, and Sogard and Aguilar -- these are the pieces that can help us do that.”

On the pitching side, the absences of Tyler Glasnow, Blake Snell and Jose Alvarado forced the Rays to be a little more aggressive at trying to shore up the pitching, especially with the move to acquire Richards.

“With Blake on the shelf, with Glasnow on the shelf, we’re a bit thin with our depth,” Neander said. “[Richards] is somebody that over the last two years has made 48 Major League appearances, 45 of them as a starter.”

There was a desire to clear room on the 40-man roster
The decisions to trade away Wood, Arroyo, Kolarek, Sanchez and McCarthy also affected the 40-man roster for the Rays, clearing what had become a logjam over the past couple of months. With the trades, the Rays now have 38 players on the 40-man, but they’ll need to make room for Glasnow and Anthony Banda, whenever they’re ready to come off the 60-day injured list.

Tampa Bay also has to make some decisions in order to protect some prospects from the Rule 5 Draft in December, but these deals helped alleviate some of the number crunching, which was a priority for the Rays.