As is the case with any good farm system, the Rays had difficult decision to make this evening in deciding which prospects would be protected on the 40-man roster.
Entering today, the Rays had eight roster spots remaining, with several prospects not already on the 40-man roster that were considered guarantees: Top-100 ranked RHP Brent Honeywell and 1B Jake Bauers, and Double-A outfield standout Justin Williams.
From there, a smattering of arms that dominated the minor leagues in RHP Diego Castillo, RHP Yonny Chirinos, RHP Burch Smith (recovering from Tommy John surgery), and LHP Ryan Yarbrough were considered likely additions or trade fodder, as was two-time defensive prospect of the year C Nick Ciuffo.
In the end, the Rays added seven, leaving Ciuffo and Smith off the roster, and instead adding RHP Jose Mujica. Despite a lack of strikeout numbers to his name, Mujica, 21, went 14-8 with a 3.04 ERA in 27 starts between Class-A Charlotte and Montgomery, earning a promotion after two starts with the Stone Crabs. He led Rays minor leaguers in wins and ranked fourth in ERA (min. 100 IP).
The evening’s news will leave several prospects available to other organizations to draft away from the Rays franchise next month. Beyond Ciuffo and Smith, Triple-A stand outs 2B Kean Wong and OF Johnny Field, as well as High-A oddity LHP Travis Ott are just as likely to be taken.
A speculative mind would assume the Rays tried many eleventh hour trades to pick up international dollars at an attempts at adding to the possible signing bonus for Shohei Ohtani, but nothing came to pass.
The Rays previously made room on the roster by releasing seasoned backup catcher Curt Casali and former first round draft pick Taylor Guerrieri. The absence of Ciuffo puts the Rays 40-man roster at only two catchers: Wilson Ramos and Jesus Sucre.