PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- The Rays continued to get younger on Tuesday, when they traded right fielder Steven Souza Jr. to the D-backs as part of a three-team deal that returns two prospects and two players to be named.The Rays received left-hander Anthony Banda, who was the D-backs' No. 4
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- The Rays continued to get younger on Tuesday, when they traded right fielder Steven Souza Jr. to the D-backs as part of a three-team deal that returns two prospects and two players to be named.
The Rays received left-hander Anthony Banda, who was the D-backs' No. 4 prospect per MLB Pipeline, along with second baseman Nick Solak, the Yankees' No. 8 prospect.
The Yankees received utility man Brandon Drury from the D-backs and sent Minor League right-hander Taylor Widener to Arizona.
The trade comes after a busy weekend that saw the Rays acquire first baseman C.J. Cron in a trade with the Angels, trade right-hander Jake Odorizzi to the Twins for shortstop prospect Jermaine Palacios and designate left fielder Corey Dickerson for assignment.
In December, the Rays traded third baseman Evan Longoria to the Giants, receiving infielder Christian Arroyo, outfielder Denard Span and a pair of Minor Leaguers in return.
"The moves prior to [the Souza deal], there were factors involved there where we were moving pieces from areas of depth we felt we could absorb and come out of the other end OK, especially with the addition of C.J. to our group," Rays general manager Erik Neander said. "This move was one that was really driven by Arizona's pursuit of Steven, and their desire to add him to their club."
Neander said the Rays felt this deal was one they couldn't pass up "in terms of continuing to build out a really strong core" of young players.
Neander added that for the Rays to be a "sustainable winner" and to escape "the middle territory where we've been the last two years," they need to continue to build that young core. However, Neander still feels the team will be competitive this season, even though it must fill the void left by Souza's departure, which should likely be attempted before the end of Spring Training.
"This isn't a team that's going to win 60 games this year, this is a team with respect to the quality of the pitching we have and the quality of the defense we're going to have. We're going to be competitive," Neander said. "And that's still something that we believe."
Rays fans will see a drastically different lineup this season, as the club's top four home-run leaders from last year -- Souza, Dickerson, Longoria and Logan Morrison -- are departed, though Dickerson and Morrison have not yet found landing spots.
The Rays entered the offseason with a mandate from principal owner Stu Sternberg to lower the payroll, and Tuesday night's deals, along with the moves over the weekend, lowered the payroll by approximately $15 million.
Banda, 24, debuted for Arizona last summer, compiling a 5.96 ERA over eight appearances (four starts). He led the D-backs' Minor League organizations in strikeouts and finished second in ERA in 2016, while reaching Triple-A for the first time, but he struggled to a 5.39 ERA over 22 starts for Triple-A Reno last year.
"A lefty that physically checks a lot of boxes," Neander said of Banda. "He's got a three-pitch mix right now. He's got a quality fastball that has reached the upper 90s, has a developing feel for a breaking ball that we'd like to see get a little more consistent and a good changeup.
"From all indications, good makeup, good work ethic, good character, somebody who will be right in the mix for us when he comes over to our camp."
MLB Pipeline grades Banda's curveball as his best pitch (earning a 60 on the 20-80 scale), followed by his mid-90s fastball, with a 55 grade.
Solak, 23, hit .297/.384/.452 with 12 homers and 53 RBIs for Class A Advanced Tampa and Double-A Trenton last season. The former University of Louisville standout is known for his ability to get on base and for hitting the ball from gap to gap, more for average than power. Solak also possesses plus speed, per MLB Pipeline, and was appreciated for his competitiveness while in the Yankees' farm system.
"[Solak] is someone who has a very long history of hitting," Neander said. "He can flat-out hit. He's a wonderful kid with a burning desire to improve and to make the most of what he has."
Souza, 28, hit .239/.351/.459 with 30 home runs and 78 RBIs in 2017, earning the Don Zimmer Award, given to the Rays' Most Valuable Player by the Tampa Bay chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.
Souza said he was surprised by the deal, but he understands baseball is a business and that getting traded is part of the equation. When asked if he had a message for the fans, the popular right fielder said, "I do."
"This is a hard time," Souza said. "I think it's a confusing time for Rays fans. And I love every Rays fan that ever supported us dearly. ... I think it's really hard in a time like this to see the silver lining. And they need to trust the front office and the GM, the coaching staff and the players, that they're trying to do what's best for the long-term future of the organization.
"It's not an easy job being the GM of a Major League team when there's a budget that's not very realistic that they have to meet. So I think that through the tough times, real fans stand beside a team when it goes through its low times and when it goes through its high times."
Neander stressed several times that Tuesday night's deal was not money-driven, but rather "a pure baseball decision" based on the return they got for Souza.
The Rays acquired Souza from the Nationals on Dec. 19, 2014, in a three-way deal that also included the Rays sending Wil Myers to the Padres.
Fantasy spin | Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB)
Chris Owings gains the most value from this deal among those on the D-backs, as he could shift from utility player to starting second baseman. The trade also boosts the value of Souza, who warrants Round 10 consideration in standard-league drafts as he prepares to bring his power-speed blend (30 homers, 16 steals in 2017) to a productive D-backs lineup.
Meanwhile, Mallex Smith becomes a late-round steal who could swipe 35 bases if given 550 plate appearances with the Rays this year. As for the Yankees, the acquisition of Drury likely eliminates the chance of the club opening the season with both Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andújar in the starting lineup, though one of the two prospects may still have an opportunity to land a spot.
Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2004.