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Friday, Jan 19, 2018
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Winter meetings journal: Rays trade for money to sign top international free agent

LAKE BUENA VISTA — While most of the business conducted at the meetings impacts the big-league team one way or another, the Rays are working to finalize a move they hope pays off big sometime in the 2020s.

In trading Wednesday to acquire $1 million in international bonus pool space, the Rays are positioned to sign SS Jelfry Marte, a 16-year-old from the Dominican Republic ranked as one of the top international prospects. Marte had signed last summer with the Twins for $3 million, but the deal was voided due to vision issues, which the Rays feel good enough about to take a gamble for about $800,000.

Though declining to comment specifically on Marte until the deal is completed, senior vice president Chaim Bloom said they were "excited" by the potential addition.

"Obviously the international market is a place where you can get some really good upside, some high-end ability that is very far away but still has a chance to break through and really impact a club," he said. "We’re working on something we think falls into that category."

The Rays had about $440,000 remaining in their own pool, so they reached out to frequent trade partner Seattle for help. More cozily, they sent back one of the minor-leaguers they got from the Mariners in an August deal, LHP Anthony Misiewicz, who pitched at Double-A Montgomery.

Bloom said the additional bonus money will be used on other prospects before the June 15 end of the signing period.

Rule of 5

The Rays "are braced" to lose talent in today’s Rule 5 draft of players not on 40-man rosters, with Baseball America projecting RHP Burch Smith and C Nick Ciuffo as two of the top five candidates to be taken. LHP Travis Ott is another possibility.

For what is now a $100,000 fee, drafted players still have to spend a full season in the majors, so they could end up offered back for $50,000.

Smith is a 27-year-old with big-league experience who is finally healthy after missing two seasons with arm issues. Ciuffo, 22, was a first-round pick in the 2013 draft and is considered more advanced defensively, having hit .245 with a .702 OPS at Double-A Montgomery.

"We have heard some of our players named out there and certainly we prefer not to lose them, but we know, and we said this when we set our roster (and added seven other prospects), when you leave someone off the roster there is a chance they get selected and you have to be able to live with that," senior VP Chaim Bloom said .. The Rays have a roster spot open but were still declding whether to make a pick.

Quote of the day

"Continuing our pace of one trade a day."

Senior VP Chaim Bloom, after the Rays followed deals for two fringe infielders by getting international bonus space Wednesday.

Miscellany

• Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg said there was no update on progress toward a new stadium.

• The Angels said they had "no concern" about the condition of Japanese two-way star Shohei Ohtani’s right elbow after reports of a minor ligament issue.

• The Marlins continued their selloff in dealing OF Marcell Ozuna to the Cardinals for a package of prospects led by RHP Sandy Alcantara. The Cardinals are working to deal OF Stephen Piscotty to the A’s. The Angels got 2B Ian Kinsler from the Tigers, and the Mariners got RHP Shawn Armstrong from the Indians.

• Among free agent signings: Ex-Rays LHP Jake McGee is going back to the Rockies, RHP Joe Smith is reportedly going to the Astros, RHP Juan Nicasio to the Mariners and RHP Anthony Swarzak to the Mets.

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Winter meetings journal: Rays trade for money to sign top international free agent