- The Rays will deploy minor-league infielder Jake Cronenworth as a two-way player moving forward, reports Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Cronenworth was used as the “opener” yesterday for Triple-A Durham, reportedly flashing a fastball at 94-96 miles per hour. The 25-year-old, a 7th-round selection of the Rays in 2015, pitched at the University of Michigan. It bears mentioning that Cronenworth has been plenty successful with the bat in 2019, slashing a cool .367/.460/.511 in 37 Triple-A games this season. This, of course, marks latest experiment for the innovative Rays, who also feature high-profile two-way player Brendan McKay in their farm system.
The Tampa Bay Rays activated righty Hunter Wood from the injured list, per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times (via Twitter). In a corresponding move, Austin Pruitt was optioned back to Triple-A Durham.
Wood gives the Rays another long option to soak up the innings left behind in the wake of Tyler Glasnow’s injury. Before hitting the injured list with shoulder soreness, Wood had yet to surrender a run in 6 1/3 innings, including a two-inning “start” as an opener. He threw three innings in his first appearance of the season, earning the save in a 5-1 win against the White Sox. Wood’s fastball clocked in at 94.3 mph in 41 innings last season, and the Rays hope to see some of that velocity return after averaging only 92.3 mph over his first four appearances, effective as he was over that span. Wood joins Yonny Chirinos, Jalen Beeks, Casey Sadler, and Ryne Stanek in the long man/opener mix for Tampa.
Pruitt had a rough go of it in a short stint with the big league club this year: 6 earned runs in only 7 1/3 innings with 8 hits and 2 home runs to only 4 strikeouts. Results haven’t been a whole lot better for the 29-year-old in in Triple-A this season either, where he sports a 6.23 ERA in seven appearances. Like Wood, Pruitt has the ability to throw multiple innings in a single go, and his FIP and xFIP numbers have been good the last two seasons, but the results have yet to show in the more public-facing ERA column. Wood provides more upside at this stage, but Pruitt is sure to return to Tampa at some point this season if he can stay healthy.
Meanwhile, the Rays had yet another catcher hit the deck. Rookie Anthony Bemboom will avoid surgery, but not the injured list, per Topkin (via Twitter). Manager Kevin Cash suggests Bemboom will miss 4-6 weeks with a sprained ligament after only 5 plate appearances with Tampa. In his stead, Erik Kratz will become Blake Snell’s fourth different receiver in his last five starts, along with Bemboom, Mike Zunino, and Michael Perez, who is the closest of the three to returning from his oblique injury. Still, it’ll be Kratz and Travis d’Arnaud behind the dish for the next couple of weeks at the least.
The Rays have acquired catcher Erik Kratz and cash considerations from the Giants in exchange for either a player to be named later or cash, per an announcement from the Giants. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times was the first to report that Kratz had been dealt to Tampa, adding that he expected right-hander Aaron Slegers to be designated for assignment to make room for Kratz on the 40-man roster (Twitter links). MLB.com’s Juan Toribio confirmed that Slegers is indeed headed for DFA limbo.
Kratz was designated himself by the Giants earlier this week, and the veteran will now suit up for the ninth different team in 10 Major League seasons. Kratz will back up Travis d’Arnaud, himself a recent acquisition, on a Rays team that has seen its catching depth depleted in recent days. Mike Zunino, Michael Perez, and now rookie Anthony Bemboom have all been sidelined with injuries, with Bemboom hitting the IL earlier today due to a sprained left knee. It’s probably safe to assume that Kratz’s time with the Rays could be short as players begin to return from injury, though that might still be some weeks away, and d’Arnaud himself is no guarantee to stay healthy.
The money changing hands in the deal should indicate that the Rays won’t be on the hook for much of the approximately $900K that Kratz is still owed for the remainder of the season.
Slegers has a 5.90 ERA over 29 career MLB innings, all with the Twins from 2017-18. After going to the Pirates on a waiver claim in the offseason, he was acquired by the Rays at the end of Spring Training, and Slegers has managed only a 6.15 ERA over 33 2/3 innings for Triple-A Durham this season.
Traditionalists may never fully embrace the approach, but it’s hard to argue with the results: through a quarter of the season, the Rays’ pitching staff has been lights out. By design, it’s a fluid and ever-evolving mix of hurlers. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times provides an update on some particularly important arms for the AL East-leading team.
Most notably, prospect Brent Honeywell has encountered another hurdle in his effort to return from Tommy John surgery. He’s only slated for a week-long shutdown for nerve irritation in his right elbow, but this isn’t the first setback. The fact that Honeywell’s road back hasn’t been perfectly smooth doesn’t mean he won’t make it, but it does add to the uncertainty and bump back his timeline.
In Topkin’s assessment, the Tampa Bay front office won’t be able to consider Honeywell as a MLB option until July or August. He’s obviously going to be handled with plenty of caution given his high-ceiling billing and hiccups to this point. Honeywell is going to need a full arm build-up and even then will need to show he’s fully ready for the majors, having never yet pitched in the bigs. No doubt the Rays will keep a close eye on his workload even when he is ready for game action. Honeywell hasn’t yet topped 140 innings in a professional season and already missed all of 2018.
Clearly, then, Honeywell won’t be stepping into the opening in the rotation created when Tyler Glasnow hit the injured list recently. Nobody will, in fact. Skipper Kevin Cash tells Topkin that the club won’t tap a third starter, even on an interim basis. Rather, the club will continue to piece things together on a day-to-day basis behind rotation pieces Blake Snell and Charlie Morton.
Topkin warns not to expect any major acquisitions to plug the openings. Fortunately, Glasnow is said to be looking at an absence of only four to six weeks. That’s about as good an outlook as might have been hoped for when he left with forearm tightness. The injury might knock the 25-year-old out of surprise Cy Young contention, but hopefully won’t spoil his breakout season.
Plus, there are some other hurlers working back. Reliever Hunter Wood is close to being an option again for the MLB roster after hitting the IL with a shoulder issue, though he may take at least one more rehab outing. Wood showed an intriguing 18.0% swinging-strike rate in 6 1/3 innings to open the year. Former top prospect Jose De Leon is ready to move his rehab work to the highest level of the minors after a pair of High-A outings. Given his long and arduous rehab process, the odds are he’ll be given some time to work at Triple-A even when his assignment is up (which must occur on or before June 2nd). There’s no word yet on when Anthony Banda will be ready to begin his own rehab assignment after undergoing Tommy John surgery last June, but he was reportedly throwing from a mound late last month.
Catalina, 18, has yet to pitch in a professional game and hasn’t even been in the Mets organization for one calendar year. He was signed out of the Dominican Republic last July 2 and received a $150K signing bonus at the time, as Baseball America’s Ben Badler recently noted in reviewing the team’s 2018-19 international free-agent class. Badler notes that Catalina is already a massive 6’6″ and 205 pounds with a fastball that reaches 95 mph and a power slider. Obviously, he’s years away from being any kind of factor in the Majors, but he seemingly makes a nice lottery-ticket arm to add to the minor league ranks in Tampa.
Font, 28, has made just one appearance for the Mets since the time of the trade. He tossed four innings in a spot start and allowed a pair of runs on three hits with no walks allowed and one strikeout. He had a tough start to the season with the Rays — nine runs on 15 hits and five walks in 14 innings — but he’s a fairly hard-throwing righty who has seen a substantial uptick in swinging-strike and strikeout rate so far in 2019. Font is out of minor league options, so he’ll have to stick on the Mets’ roster moving forward or else be passed through waivers before he can be sent to the minor leagues.
The Rays were reportedly in contact with free-agent closer Craig Kimbrel as of late March. A month and a half later, Kimbrel remains without a job, and the Rays are still among clubs “keeping in touch” with the seven-time All-Star, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports.
The 24-14 Rays own baseball’s second-best record thanks in part to their bullpen, which ranks second in the majors in ERA and seventh in K/BB ratio. And they’ve done it without an established closer, having deployed Jose Alvarado, Diego Castillo and Emilio Pagan for at least three saves apiece. All three have been highly effective this season, as has fellow reliever Jalen Beeks, but with the juggernaut Yankees-Red Sox tandem breathing down Tampa Bay’s neck in the American League East, there’s room for outside reinforcements.
The main question for Kimbrel suitors, especially the low-budget Rays, centers on what type of offer would convince him to end his protracted stay on the open market. The 30-year-old entered free agency in November with designs on a contract befitting of a Cooperstown-caliber reliever. However, even after Kimbrel reportedly dropped his price to a more reasonable level last month, the market for the ex-Braves, Padres and Red Sox star has been shockingly tepid.
At this point, with the June 3-5 draft just a few weeks away, Kimbrel seems likely to continue without an employer until sometime next month. As MLBTR’s Jeff Todd explained this week, teams have held off on signing Kimbrel for this long, so it doesn’t seem one will blink until it no longer has to surrender draft pick compensation for adding the qualifying offer recipient.
If the Rays were to sign Kimbrel prior to the draft, though, they’d have to part with their third-highest pick. On paper, that’s the smallest penalty available to clubs, but in the Rays’ case, it would mean losing the valuable 39th overall choice. Of course, the financial ramifications accompanying a Kimbrel signing also seem to stand in the way of a union with Tampa Bay. The Rays own the majors’ lowest 40-man payroll at just north of a paltry $53MM, so there should be room for Kimbrel or another pricey pickup(s) in theory. The franchise has never been known for spending, however, and Kimbrel may land a multiyear deal that would add a sizable commitment to its limited payroll beyond this season.
The Rays pulled starter Tyler Glasnow from tonight’s game after he motioned to the dugout. The club has announced that tightness in his right forearm was the cause for the move, as MLB.com’s Juan Toribio was among those to report on Twitter.
More will be known after a full examination, but that’s obviously not the most promising initial indication. Forearm issues can be related to elbow troubles, though there’s no reason to assume that there’s a significant problem in the joint.
The Rays organization will be holding its collective breath while Glasnow gets checked out. Long considered a top-shelf talent, he has put it all together thus far in 2019. Glasnow is sitting at 97.5 mph with his four-seamer, drawing strong groundball numbers, generating lots of weak contact, and — most importantly — finally exhibiting the command that had long eluded him.
Working in the zone more frequently and generating more first strikes than ever before helped Glasnow to work to a 1.47 ERA with 9.6 K/9 and 1.5 BB/9 entering today’s action. He coughed up a few earned runs this evening before exiting, but also tacked on nine strikeouts against just two walks in his 5 1/3 frames.
6:26pm: This move is now official. Infielder Matt Duffy was shifted to the 60-day injured list to create 40-man space; the team will wait to make a corresponding active roster move.
6:03pm: The Rays have struck a deal with the Dodgers to acquire catcher Travis d’Arnaud, according to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times (via Twitter). Cash considerations will go to Los Angeles in return.
This represents the continuation of d’Arnaud’s already disjointed season. After working back to health in the wake of Tommy John surgery, he opened up as the Mets’ backup backstop but was dumped at a surprisingly early juncture.
The Dodgers signed the out-of-options d’Arnaud as a righty bench bat with designs on trying him at other positions, but instead pivoted quickly to today’s move. d’Arnaud is now slated to help fill in while the Rays deal with injuries to their top two backstops (Mike Zunino and Michael Perez).
Perhaps it’s not surprising to see these organizations showing interest in d’Arnaud as a fill-in and possible bounceback performer. He was long considered quite talented and has at times been a quality-hitting catcher. Best of all, the New York club is on the hook for d’Arnaud’s $3.52MM salary (less a pro-rated portion of the league minimum) so it’s a virtual free-ride for other outfits.
There’s no reason to think that the Dodgers soured on d’Arnaud after watching him take just one plate appearance, though perhaps they weren’t enthralled by what they saw when they worked him out at first base and left field. Perhaps the team was simply willing to let him go because there was a clear opportunity for him in Tampa Bay and because it was just as interested in utilizing other players to fill out the roster.
It’s been three years since Loney, now 35, appeared in a big league game. His last Major League work came in 2016 when he batted .265/.307/.397 through 366 plate appearances with the Mets. Loney had a brief stint with the Korea Baseball Organization’s LG Twins, did not play in 2018 and appeared in just 11 games with the Skeeters this season before today’s announcement.
Although it’s been a bit since Loney was prominent in Major League Baseball, he’s still a well-known name to most fans thanks to a solid 11-year run at the MLB level. Selected by the Dodgers with the 19th overall pick in the 2002 draft, Loney debuted as a 21-year-old less than four years later and quickly solidified himself as a viable long-term piece in Los Angeles. He hit .284/.342/.559 in 111 plate appearances during that rookie effort and followed it up with a brilliant .331/.381/.538 showing in 375 plate appearances during the 2007 season.
That cemented Loney’s place in the L.A. lineup, and while his bat never matched that lofty standard again, he was a solid offensive presence for the Dodgers over the next four years, consistently hitting for average with quality on-base skills and one of the game’s lowest strikeout rates. In parts of seven seasons with his original organization, Loney hit .284/.341/.423 all while providing the Dodgers with above-average defense at first base.
Loney struggled in a brief run with the Red Sox after being included in 2012’s epic Adrian Gonzalez/Carl Crawford/Josh Beckett blockbuster and settled for a one-year deal with the Rays in hopes of rebuilding his stock. He did just that. Loney turned in a .299/.348/.430 performance with his characteristically strong glovework in his first season with Tampa Bay, and he parlayed that success into a three-year, $21MM deal to remain with the Rays. He’d give Tampa Bay a second season of above-average output before struggling in year two of that pact and eventually being released prior to the final season of the deal. It was at that point that Loney latched on for what now proved to be his final season — the aforementioned Mets run.
All told, Loney logged 1443 games in the Majors and hit .284/.336/.410 with 108 home runs, 267 doubles, 21 triples, 38 stolen bases, 528 runs scored and another 669 knocked in. Beyond that, Loney was a monster in the postseason, hitting .350/.429/.525 through 91 plate appearances across parts of eight different series (mostly with the Dodgers). Between his first-round bonus and his 11 seasons in the Majors, Loney racked up more than $38MM in career earnings.
The Rays announced that they’ve placed catcher Mike Zunino on the 10-day injured list due to a left quad strain and selected the contract of fellow backstop Anthony Bemboom. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times first reported that the move was coming and suggests that Zunino will be out about three weeks (Twitter links). Tampa Bay also activated Austin Meadows from the IL, as expected.
Tampa Bay has now lost its top two catchers in the span of 48 hours. Michael Perez was placed on the 10-day injured list Wednesday morning due to oblique tightness and replaced on the active roster by Nick Ciuffo, who’ll now serve as the Rays’ primary catcher for the time being. Ciuffo, a 2013 first-round pick, has yet to establish himself as much of an offensive option in Triple-A, where he’s hit .236/.272/.347 in 316 career plate appearances. He does control the running game quite well — 42 percent caught-stealing rate in his minor league career — and graded out as an above-average pitch framer in 2018, per Baseball Prospectus.
Bemboom, 29, has only played in eight games this season himself thanks to injuries of his own. An eight-year minor league veteran, he’s in his first season with the Rays organization having previously spent six years in the Halos’ minor leagues ranks as well as the 2018 season in the Rockies’ system. Bemboom is a career .249/.344/.382 hitter in Triple-A and carries a 31 percent caught-stealing rate since being drafted in the 22nd round back in 2012. He posted above-average marks in pitch framing in each of the past two seasons, as well.
Certainly, it’s not an ideal pairing of catchers for a first-place club. As noted Wednesday at the time of the injury, though, there’s not much in the way of readily available veteran help. Perhaps they’ll explore the market for a short-term backup option, but it’s unlikely that the trade market at this stage of the season would yield anyone who can be reasonably expected to provide more offense than Ciuffo.