The 8 p.m. ET deadline to add players to the 40-man roster in advance of December’s Rule 5 draft has passed, and the Rays were busy, adding catcher Ronaldo Hernandez and infielders Vidal Brujan, Jake Cronenworth, Lucius Fox, and Kevin Padlo to the roster.
To make room on the roster, the Rays traded right-handed pitcher Jose De Leon to the Reds for a player to be named later and cash considerations. He was once ranked the No. 23 player in baseball, but injuries — and Tommy John surgery — limited him to 6 2⁄3 innings with the Rays in his three years in the organization.
They also designated infielder Matt Duffy for assignment. Duffy was acquired from San Francisco in the Matt Moore trade, but like De Leon, injuries often limited him. He missed the entire 2017 season due to an Achilles injury and much of 2019 due to a hamstring injury. In 809 plate appearances with the Rays, he batted .284/.351/.357, good for a 97 OPS+.
Additionally, they traded minor league left-handed pitcher Cristopher Sanchez to the Phillies for minor league infielder Curtis Mead. Sanchez, 22, had a breakout season with improved velocity, striking out 73 in 75 2⁄3 innings. The Phillies signed Mead for $200,000, and he had a .813 OPS in the Gulf Coast League in 2019.
The 40-man roster is now full.
Brujan, 21, is one of the team’s top prospects. He started the season with Class A-Advanced Charlotte and finished it with Double-A Montgomery, also adding a stint in the Arizona Fall League. Between Charlotte and Montgomery, he batted .277 with a .346 on-base percentage and .389 slugging percentage. His 48 steals in 61 attempts led the organization, and he played a career-high 29 games at shortstop.
After a down 2018 season, the 25-year-old Cronenworth rebounded in 2019 and was one of the top hitters in the organization. His .334 average led the International League, as did his .429 on-base percentage. His .949 OPS was third. The most interesting development in his season was his return to his two-way roots. He closed when he pitched for Michigan, and he made his pro debut on the mound in May. He struck out nine and walked eight in 7 1⁄3 innings but did not pitch after returning from a hamstring injury late in the season.
The 22-year-old Fox was acquired in the same trade as Duffy. Known for his speed and defense, he stole 39 bases in 50 attempts in 2019. However, between Montgomery and Triple-A Durham, he batted just .221/.331/.327 — all career lows since joining the Rays in 2017. For the first time in his career, he played positions other than shortstop, seeing his first innings at second base and third base.
Hernandez, 21, struggled in 2019 but not many catcher prospects can match his potential, particularly in the batter’s box. Although he batted just .265/.299/.397 for Charlotte, Baseball America ranked him as the No. 8 prospect in the organization and said he has plus power potential ($). He had a .894 OPS in 42 plate appearances in the AFL.
Like Cronenworth, the 23-year-old Padlo rebounded with a strong 2019 season. Known for his power potential, a broken hamate in 2017 sapped that power, and it didn’t return until this year with Montgomery and Durham. He slugged 21 homers between the two levels and batted .265/.389/.538, mostly playing third base.
Outfielder Moises Gomez was one notable player not added to the roster. He set a Charlotte record with 16 home runs this season but batted just .221 with a .295 OBP. The Rule 5 draft will conclude the Winter Meetings on Dec. 12.