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Rays acquire CF Jose Siri, trade Brett Phillips to Orioles

A major shake up finds the Rays with a new direction at CF

Detroit Tigers v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

The Rays, Astros, and Orioles matched up on a big three-team trade. Rays contributed two prospects working towards their goal of consolidating their upcoming roster crunch, added somebody new to their 40 man and made a big move to open that space in saying goodbye (for now) to Brett Phillips.

First the full trade:

Let’s break this one down first with what they gave, what the Rays got, and finally what this means going forward.

What was given

The Rays have a big-time roster crunch upcoming, and while they got lucky with the Rule 5 draft being skipped last year, that will be coming back for 2023 and many tough choices will have to be made.

In this deal, the Rays are trading two prospects that would need to be added to the 40-man roster or exposed to the Rule 5 Draft.

RHP Seth Johnson is the top prospect the Rays gave up, ranked number 9 on Baseball America’s mid-season Rays ranking. Johnson is a very talented pitcher who performed very well throughout his time in the Rays system. However, this year in Bowling Green (Single-A Advanced) Johnson had forearm inflammation and will be undergoing Tommy John Surgery. This puts Johnson in a very precarious place developmentally and especially tricky for any contending team like the Rays.

For 2023, Seth Johnson will be needed to add to the 40-man roster, but will miss most if not all of the 2023 season. He will be 25 years old when he next is able to pitch in a pro game, and will have yet to pitch above the Class-A advanced level. For the Rays they would have to either keep him on the 40-man roster spot for the other year (and then several more as he develops) or put him on the 60-Day IL starting his service time clock. This certainly played a role in limiting his trade value from where it would be had he not been hurt.

The other prospect sent out is Triple-A RHP Jayden Murray who Baseball America ranked 30th in the Rays system at the start of the year but then out of the top 30 by midseason rankings. They wrote:

Murray has been a fast-mover so far thanks to his excellent control and command. He should reach Triple-A Durham in 2022. He’s a potential No. 4 starter if it all clicks.

What they received

Houston Astros v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images

Jose Siri is a defensive wizard in center field, racking up 8 Defensive Runs Saved and 7 Outs Above Average (97th percentile in OOA). In terms of defenders, Siri is one of the very best in the entire sport. On Baseball Savant there is a stat measuring success rate in terms of defensive plays vs estimated success rate, and comparing the difference. Siri is currently tied with 7% Success Rate Added, tied for most in all of baseball with Jonathan Schoop and Brett Phillips (ironically).

Siri is also a speed demon. He also possesses 100th percentile sprint speed.

Siri has not hit well in a limited sample this season with the Astros (.178/.238/.304 55 wRC+), but has shown some much better hitting ability throughout the minor leagues (.318/.369/.552 125 wRC+ in 2021 and .296/.346/.775 156 wRC+), so the hopes for more offense from the righty CF is certainly there. He also has some tremendous power:

From mhatter106 over at The Crawford Boxes: Siri is super fast with great D in CF. Plate discipline is not great but there is some power to be tapped. He has something like 7 career homers and the shortest one of the 7 is like 410’. Very exuberant personality. (Some Astros fans nicknamed him Carlos Gomez lite) admittedly he’s the type of player you like or when he’s on your team, but when he’s admiring his HR for forever, you can see who’s other teams fans would hate him when he plays against you.

What this means

Jose Siri is still on his 1st year of team control, so potentially the Rays just traded for their starting CF for the future. Already a standout elite-level defender who brings top-level defense to the table and can slot right into everyday play at CF. However, the limit to his ceiling will be his hit tool. The power is there and the potential is there, but yet to be realized so far. If Siri can hit consistently (even at a 80-90 wRC+ level) he will be a fantastic starting CF for the Tampa Bay Rays for the next several years.

To make room for Siri on the roster, the Rays made a major move that will bring with it a ton of emotions for Rays fans: DFA’ing Brett Phillips.

Brett Phillips the player has struggled mightily in 2022 thrust into a far larger role than expected. He never gave up, he never complained, and he kept that joy that we all fell in love with the entire time. The addition of Siri, and early success from newly acquired Roman Quinn, has left his playing time and role in doubt. Phillips bat had lagged mightily, but the defense and speed that made him elite defensively was still on display. At this point, his amazing run with the Rays has come to an end.

However, Designating a player for Assignment means they are exposed to waivers, could be selected by any team, and if not selected can decide to accept their assignment to the minor leagues or opt for free agency.

UPDATE: Brett has posted a video addressed directly to all Rays fans out there

Update #2

Rays have traded Phillips to the Orioles