Rays deal Brosseau for Reifert, roster space

Infielder traded to Milwaukee for Minor League pitcher ahead of Rule 5 Draft

November 13th, 2021

ST. PETERSBURG -- Needing to clear space on their 40-man roster before Friday’s deadline to protect prospects from the Rule 5 Draft, the Rays on Saturday traded infielder to the Brewers for Minor League reliever Evan Reifert.

With Tampa Bay, Brosseau went from joining the organization as an undrafted free agent to authoring one of the best moments and biggest at-bats in franchise history: his 10-pitch, tiebreaking home run off Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman in Game 5 of the 2020 American League Division Series.

But the Rays entered the weekend with a full 40-man roster, which is now down to 39, and they’ll have to make a few more tough decisions like this one to make room for the handful of prospects they want to shield from next month’s Rule 5 Draft. Rather than cutting ties with Brosseau and receiving nothing in return, they picked up an interesting young arm in the 22-year-old Reifert, who does not need to be added to the 40-man roster yet.

Reifert went 3-3 with a 2.10 ERA, a 1.20 WHIP and 103 strikeouts in 60 innings over 37 relief appearances between Low-A Carolina and High-A Wisconsin in his professional debut this past season. The 6-foot-4 righty ranked among Milwaukee’s Minor League leaders in strikeouts (sixth) and saves (tied for fourth with eight) while earning the organization’s Minor League Pitcher of the Month award in August.

The Brewers signed Reifert as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Central Missouri following the 2020 Draft, which was shortened to five rounds amid the COVID-19 pandemic. He was previously selected by the Rangers in the 30th round of the 2018 Draft but did not sign.

The Rays have a handful of similar moves in store over the coming week as they most likely attempt to move players on the fringe of their 40-man roster for younger, lower-level prospects who don’t yet need to be protected. The club needs those spots to add intriguing Rule 5-eligible prospects like pitcher Tommy Romero, infielder Jonathan Aranda and catcher Blake Hunt, among others.

This one required moving Brosseau, a popular utility infielder -- Rays manager Kevin Cash once called him “one of everybody's favorite teammates” -- who played a key role before seeing his playing time diminish as he struggled at the plate this year. Tampa Bay and Milwaukee are familiar with each other’s rosters, having most recently linked up on a May trade that sent Willy Adames to the Brewers for pitchers J.P. Feyereisen and Drew Rasmussen.

“Mike is a name we’ve talked about before. Also, very aware of the Rays’ infield depth at the moment, aware of their roster situation,” Brewers president of baseball operations David Stearns told reporters. “These are discussions that began out in Carlsbad, [Calif., at last week’s GM Meetings] and we were able to wrap them up over the last 24 hours or so.”

Brosseau, 27, hit .302/.378/.558 with five homers over 36 games in 2020 and showed a knack for crushing left-handers like Chapman, who had previously thrown a 101 mph fastball near Brosseau’s head. His eighth-inning homer in Game 5 was “hands-down the greatest moment I’ve been a part of in baseball,” Cash said at the time, and a huge confidence boost for Brosseau entering 2021.

But he never found his form this year. Brosseau hit just .187 with a .613 OPS in 57 games, wasn’t quite the same against lefties, only played in two games after July 7 and only managed a .218/.342/.382 slash line with Triple-A Durham. The Rays have a ton of infield depth with Wander Franco, Brandon Lowe, Joey Wendle, Yandy Díaz and Ji-Man Choi alongside young switch-hitter Taylor Walls and the versatile Vidal Bruján. Additionally, Tampa Bay acquired a new lefty-killing utility-type player at the Trade Deadline in Jordan Luplow.

That depth and the Rays’ looming roster crunch pushed Brosseau to the periphery of their roster and, now, to the Brewers.