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Rays drop eight players from 40-man roster through trades, waives

The Rays are clearly pursuing a new backstop for 2024...

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Baltimore Orioles Reggie Hildred-USA TODAY Sports

The Rays have a monumental task every offseason, it seems, clearing roster space for the next wave of up and coming prospects as well as the necessary free agents.

Tampa Bay started that process last week by placing six players on waivers to see if they would be claimed by another franchise (which results in a $50,000 fee back to the Rays). If not claimed, the players would be likely candidates to be quickly re-signed on minor league deals.

Here’s how those moves shook out:

LHP Jalen Beeks

Beeks was the 1:1 return of Nathan Eovaldi, before the latter went on to star for the Boston Red Sox in their latest World Series run. Sometimes a starter, often not, Beeks was his most effective from 2021-2022 in which he boasted as low as a 1.79 FIP (2021) and 2.80 ERA (2022). Unfortunately, that effectiveness slipped away in 2023.

Beeks was claimed off waivers by the Colorado Rockies.

C Christian Bethancourt

Following in the tradition of decent starting catchers the Rays lucked their way into through a mid-season trade, Bethancourt was acquired in a pinch in 2022 from the Athletics and pushed aside Francisco Mejia for the starting backstop role in 2023.

Over 104 games in 2023, Bethancourt had a 74 wRC+ with 11 HR, and eventually lost his starting role to org. soldier Rene Pinto come playoffs. He was claimed by the Cleveland Guardians and figures to be Bo Naylor’s backup in 2024. The Rays, meanwhile, will have a void to fill behind the plate.

LHP Josh Fleming

Fleming has been the “next man up” out of Durham for four seasons running in Tampa Bay, and has never locked down a solid role in the rotation — not that the Rays seemed intent on giving him that chance. His strikeout numbers were at their lowest in 2023, and he’d tallied negative WAR in each of the last two seasons.

Fleming was claimed by the Phillies, and currently projects as a starter given their roster, but that is subject to future moves for the NLCS runners up.

INF Tristan Gray

Acquired in the Corey Dickerson trade ahead of the 2018 season, Gray has been a faithful org. soldier, playing everywhere from SS to 1B. He earned a two-game cup of coffee promotion in 2023, which included a single digit jersey number and his first career homerun.

Gray went unclaimed, but is a strong candidate to return to the Rays on a minor league deal.

RHP Cole Sulser

Sulser made his major league debut with the Rays back in 2019 at 29-years old. He made four appearances for the Diamondbacks in 2023 and eventually made his way to the Rays minor league system in a depth move to make up for the trade of Luis Patino. He too has elected free agency, and could return to the Rays on a minor league deal for his age-34 sesaon.

OF Raimel Tapia

A veteran outfielder that bounced around three teams this season, picking up five appearances in the regular season. He was a break-glass option for the playoff bound Rays, as there always is in September, and has elected free agency.

Two Trades

Still not done, the Rays made two trades as they prepared for the November 14th deadline to add players from within the organization to the 40-man roster in order to protect them from the Rule 5 draft in December.

First, the Rays made a deal with Seattle to send Blake Hunt (whom the Rays had previously acquired in the Blake Snell trade) to the Mariners in exchange for another backstop, 24-year old A-ball backstop Tatem Levins, who was drafted in 2022. His numbers are impressive on offense if you look them up, but at his age they should be at that level.

The Rays then made another deal with the Phillies, sending former 2nd round draft pick (at No. 40 overall in 2017) RHP Michael Mercado to Philadelphia for RHP Adam Leverett. Mercado made it to Triple-A for the first time in 2023, but struggled with walks and longballs. Leverett is a year older, a reliever, and repeated Double-A in 2023.