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Rays acquire versatile Sogard from Toronto

Player, club see good fit for versatile veteran who's having career year
July 28, 2019

TORONTO -- It was a change of scenery in theory, though not a change of venue, as Eric Sogard was traded to the Rays from the Blue Jays during Sunday’s game between the two teams at Rogers Centre. The move wasn’t officially made until after Tampa Bay completed its seven-run

TORONTO -- It was a change of scenery in theory, though not a change of venue, as Eric Sogard was traded to the Rays from the Blue Jays during Sunday’s game between the two teams at Rogers Centre.

The move wasn’t officially made until after Tampa Bay completed its seven-run comeback to down the home team 10-9 in the series finale -- after falling in the same exact fashion on Saturday -- leaving the nine-year big league veteran wondering which outcome might be most favorable.

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“It was definitely an interesting scenario,” Sogard said. “It was like I was kind of sitting there thinking, 'What team should I be cheering for?' in a way. But these last two games were absolutely wild games, and to come out even, both with seven-run-deficit comebacks, is very impressive.”

Sogard’s day at the yard began and ended in Blue Jays gear, with the utility infielder and occasional outfielder set to officially join Tampa Bay on the road in Boston during Monday’s off-day ahead of his first game in a Rays jersey on Tuesday, though he admitted that he would have enjoyed donning both teams’ colors on Sunday.

“Absolutely,” Sogard said of whether he wished he could have worn two uniforms in one day. “It would have been very awesome. It would have been neat even starting the game with the Blue Jays and then being able to go over and finish it with them.”

In 73 games for Toronto this year, Sogard has hit .300/.363/.477 with 10 home runs -- after sending 11 balls out of the park in the first eight years of his career -- 17 doubles, two triples, 45 runs scored and 30 RBIs. He signed a Minor League deal with the Blue Jays during the offseason and is eligible for free agency at the end of this season.

“He fits our team really well,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “He’s another guy you can plug into different spots. You’re going to get really, really good defense throughout the infield, he plays outfield, he did it here recently. He’s really put it together at the plate this year too, so that’s encouraging. It just gives us more opportunities to match up against some of these tough righties, get him in there, get more left-handed at-bats in there.

“He’s had a tremendous year this year offensively, does a lot of things. He gets the bat, gets in the box, he gets on base, and he does little things that can really help you win games.”

The 33-year-old left-handed hitter did not make Toronto’s Opening Day roster this year, spending nine games at Triple-A Buffalo before joining the Blue Jays and becoming an indispensable force atop the lineup. Ahead of Sunday’s game, Sogard ranked fifth among American League leadoff hitters with a .304 average, seventh with a .365 on-base percentage and eighth with a .486 slugging percentage.

“I’m excited to be with a team in contention to make the playoffs,” Sogard said. “I certainly hope I can bring to them what I’ve done here in Toronto and help them make the playoffs.”

Moving from one young clubhouse to another, Sogard has also been a mentor and example for some of Toronto’s young players. Earlier this season, Blue Jays second baseman Cavan Biggio called his fellow infielder the most fun player to watch among his teammates.

“It’s been fun to play with Sogard,” Biggio said. “Me and him, we got along pretty well in Spring Training, playing the same position and whatnot, and then starting off in Buffalo, I’ve learned a lot from the guy who’s been around the game for so long. It’s just really fun to play with a guy like that.”

With the Rays sitting a half-game back in the American League Wild Card standings, Sogard can provide them with versatility around the diamond. He can also help to fill in the gaps at his natural position in the middle infield, with the absences of Brandon Lowe (right shin bone bruise) and Yandy Diaz (left foot contusion).

“He’ll play some second, Joey [Wendle] will move over to short at times, but it’s going to be a lot of mixing and matching,” Cash said. “It’s a smart decision from the front office recognizing that we don’t know where Brandon Lowe is -- not being critical of Brandon -- this is taking longer than we anticipated. We’ve got to cover ourselves. Then with Yandy, similarly we’re not getting the quickest healing news on him either. So it covers us on the infield.”

Sogard spent time in the Majors with the Athletics and Brewers before joining the Blue Jays. Also before Sunday’s matchup, Rays veteran hurler -- and a man with his fifth big league club -- Charlie Morton iterated how uncertain the time looming around the Trade Deadline can be for players coming or going, and what it takes for new guys to fit in.

“There are qualities that work across the board,” Morton said. “I hate to use the term ‘vanilla,’ but there’s a certain type of person, a professional who just fits in anywhere. It’s usually a guy who cares about his teammates, has a routine and is a pro. … Most people in baseball are good people. It takes an extraordinary amount of talent not to be a good teammate and a good person, and stay in the big leagues.”

Added Sogard: “In this game, you’re in a baseball family, so it doesn’t matter what uniform you’re wearing. When you get to a clubhouse, guys are going to welcome you in. Playing for so long, too, you know so many of the guys. Guys continue to bounce around and bounce around, and this is the time that I’m bouncing around.”

Sogard was rumored to have drawn interest from a number of clubs, and was previously linked to the Cubs, Giants and Braves. The Rays will be sending two players to be named to the Blue Jays in the exchange.

The Rays announced two other trades, sending right-hander Hunter Wood and infielder Christian Arroyo to the Indians for Minor League outfielder Ruben Cardenas and international slot money; and trading righty Ian Gibaut to the Rangers for a player to be named or cash considerations.

Alexis Brudnicki is a Canada-based Baseball Development and Special Projects reporter for Follow her on Twitter @baseballexis.