PORT CHARLOTTE – The Rays' surprising and controversial decision to designate for assignment 2017 All-Star OF/DH Corey Dickerson to prompt a trade paid off Thursday in a deal with the Pirates.
Assuming you consider it a good return to get veteran reliever Daniel Hudson – plus $1 million toward his $5.5 million salary – and young infield prospect Tristan Gray.
In Hudson, the Rays get a 30-year-old righty coming off a tough 2017 season (2-7, 4.38 in 71 games) who they say will compete for – though not be assured – a job in their bullpen. He pitched previously with the White Sox and Diamondbacks in an eight-season career, moving to relief in 2015 after a second Tommy John surgery.
"We're going to do the best we can … to see if there's some things we can do to help him out,'' GM Erik Neander said. "But we want to make sure we give the guys here a chance to compete right there with him.''
Which makes it seem the more appealing piece was Gray, a 2017 13th-round draftee from Rice coming off an impressive pro debut in the short-season Class A New York-Penn League, hitting .269 with seven homers, 37 RBIs and an .815 OPS in 53 games.
Neander raved about his "pretty looking" left-handed swing with power and bat-to-ball skills, "lean, athletic body that should really grow into man strength,'' and ability to play second and short. "He's a big part of this for us for us,'' he said.
The Rays were blasted, even from within their own clubhouse, for the decision to DFA Dickerson, who slumped miserably in the second half and didn't fare well playing leftfield. Neander acknowledged it was "very difficult and something he didn't deserve in that way,'' though the move worked to spur trade talks before the 2 p.m. Thursday deadline to put Dickerson on waivers.
In making the trade, the Rays spent another $3.5 million of the money it appeared they were cutting off the payroll. That's the $5.5 million Hudson makes, minus the $1-million from the Pirates and the $1-million they would have they have to give Dickerson as termination pay to get out of his $5.95 million non-guaranteed contract had they just released him.
Neander said it played out "in a way we'll take at this point" overall.
"With the market and how many guys were out there, we felt that the best way to try to accomplish something was to put a timer on it and expedite the process," Neander said. "At the end of the day, despite the look of it, the head-scratching, the things that happened up front, I believe this was also something that gave Corey the best opportunity to land the best role for him as he moves forward. A lot of it was difficult."
Banda "loving the vibe" with Rays
Acknowledging the "whirlwind" that came with being traded from Arizona, LHP Anthony Banda didn't need long to appreciate the better opportunity and welcoming environment with the Rays.
"I'm very excited to be here and continue development as a person and as a player," he said. "I'm already loving the vibe here. I'm already loving the people here. Very generous, very humane. Nothing crazy, nothing uptight. Just very laid back. I'm loving it."
Banda (rhymes with Honda), 24, was acquired Tuesday in the three-team trade that sent Rays 2017 team MVP Steven Souza Jr. to Arizona. He reached the majors last season, going 2-3, 5.96 in eight games, figuring that experience will help him going forward.
"Overall, I loved it." he said. "I think that it was good for me. I know I can pitch there. I know I can get outs there. I've shown it. Now it's use the little bits and tiny pieces, just putting it together and staying consistent, getting that and just rolling with the punches."
Quote of the day
"In many ways it's felt like a lot longer than eight days of camp.''
– GM Erik Neander, referencing the eventful first week, including three trades and a signing.
Number-to-not-get-excited-about of the day
Spot in the order CF Kevin Kiermaier is hitting in Friday's spring opener, but nowhere near decided for the regular season, manager Kevin Cash said.
* OF Carlos Gomez, who agreed Wednesday to a one-year, $4-million deal, may not report until next week, pending completing his physical and getting a visa.
* Two job candidates to watch Friday are RHP Yonny Chirinos, starting at Sarasota, and RHP Diego Castillo, relieving at Port Charlotte.
* With the bad draw of a split-squad opener, the Rays will have several minor-leaguers, who were on hand for early workouts, on the bench.
* MLB has relaxed the rule requiring teams to bring at least four big-league players to spring road games for the first week; manager Kevin Cash said it won't change the Rays' plans.
* In acknowledgement of last week's school shooting, the Rays will join other MLB teams today in wearing Stoneman Douglas High caps, which will be auctioned to benefit the victims' fund. "Anything we can do,'' Cash said.
* Fox Sports Sun debuts it's Inside the Rays: Spring Training show at 8 p.m. Friday.