PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- The Rays completed a busy night of activity by trading Jake Odorizzi to the Twins for Minor League shortstop Jermaine Palacios, Minnesota's No. 27 prospect per MLB Pipeline.
Earlier in the evening, the Rays acquired first baseman C.J. Cron from the Angels for a player to be named, and they designated for assignment DH/left fielder Corey Dickerson.
Odorizzi defeated the Rays in arbitration this week, the second year in a row the right-hander has done so, earning a $6.35 million contract for 2018. He went 10-8 with a 4.14 ERA in 28 starts last season. He has a career 3.83 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and 8.2 strikeouts per nine innings in six seasons with Kansas City and Tampa Bay.
"There comes a point in time where you have to make some decisions and move some things forward," Rays GM Erik Neander said. "That's just on a general level. We felt this was the best time to [trade Odorizzi], and we felt like this was the best offer."
Without Odorizzi in the rotation, Chris Archer, Blake Snell, Jake Faria, Matt Andriese and Nathan Eovaldi rank as the top five starters, with a host of prospects led by Brent Honeywell pushing from below.
The Twins signed Palacios, 21, out of Venezuela in 2013. He hit .296 with 13 home runs and 67 RBIs in two Minor League stops last season.
Neander stressed that the Rays value Palacios more than many of the prospect rankings by different publications.
"This is somebody that, by our own work and by our own information, what we see here is a lean, wiry Venezuelan shortstop who has had plenty of offensive success," Neander said. "Carries the position defensively well. Very good arm. Very good hands.
"... He's someone we think has some offensive upside. He can play shortstop, and play it well. All reports on the makeup are very positive. This is someone we think can grow into more physical strength ... might have another gear up from here. You look at what he's accomplished to date on the field, combined with the tool set, along with the makeup, we think that this is a really exciting player to add to our system."
Dickerson is set to make $5.95 million in 2018, and Rays owner Stu Sternberg has mandated a payroll reduction for 2018. Cron will make $2.3 million in 2018.
Neander explained the motivation behind the Cron trade and why they opted to DFA Dickerson.
"A few things were factors in varying degrees," Neander said. "One, we're a bit heavy with left-handed-hitting outfielders right now, and we've been exploring the market, having conversations and trying to figure out what made the most sense for our team.
"One of the things that we have been on the lookout for was a right-handed hitter. When Cron became available at the price he was available for us, we felt like he was a better fit for our club moving forward, to balance us out. Going forward, we're hoping [to have] similar offensive capabilities [from Cron], but from the other side of the plate."
Neander sounded like the Rays don't have a deal in place to trade Dickerson, but they felt as though the DFA move might trigger the conclusion of some trade talks they've had with other teams. The Rays have 10 days to trade, release or pass Dickerson through waivers.
"We'll see how it goes," Neander said. "There's a lot of things that we have to balance. And putting our roster together, and where we are, this is something that on some level, conceptually, was a Cron-Dickerson swap. Just with the conversations ongoing with Dickerson, this was the best way to go."
The Rays began Spring Training without a clear favorite to play first base. Brad Miller appeared to be the most likely candidate with highly touted prospect Jake Bauers also a consideration. Miller and Bauers both hit left-handed, while Cron hits right-handed, which might lead to a platoon situation, or Cron could lock down everyday duty.
Cron, 28, appeared in 100 games for the Angels in 2017, all at first base, batting .248 with 16 home runs and 56 RBIs.
Despite a stint on the 10-day disabled list with a left foot contusion and two stints in the Minor Leagues, his 16 home runs tied a career high and his 56 RBIs were the second-most of his career.
In 63 games after the All-Star break, Cron hit .267 with 14 home runs and 42 RBIs, which tied for second on the Angels behind Jose Pujols (47).
Dickerson, 28, was elected by the fans as the starting DH for the American League at the 2017 All-Star Game in Miami, his first career All-Star appearance.
In 2017, Dickerson established career highs with 150 games, 84 runs, 166 hits, 64 extra-base hits, 27 home runs, 288 total bases and 51 multi-hit games.
Prior to the All-Star break, Dickerson hit .312 with 17 home runs and 42 RBIs in 85 games, compared to .241 with 10 home runs and 20 RBIs in the second half.
Fantasy spin | Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB)
A career .262 hitter with the potential to compile 25 long balls and 80 RBIs, Cron could dent standard-league rosters while hitting in the heart of the Rays' lineup on a full-time basis. Dickerson, meanwhile, should not fall off fantasy radars even after being DFA'd given his lifetime .280 average and 27-homer performance from last year.