After acquiring Nelson Cruz last week and JT Chargois last night, the Tampa Bay Rays made a couple of inauspicious deals this afternoon at the deadline, trading for OF Jordan Luplow and RHP DJ Johnson from Cleveland in exchange for minor league RHP Peyton Battenfield. They also acquired minor league pitcher Shawn Armstrong from Baltimore for cash considerations. To make room on the 40-man roster, right-handed pitchers Sean Poppen and Jake Reed were designated for assignment. Armstrong is not on the 40-man roster and will report to Durham.
The Rays addressed one of their most glaring weaknesses today, as Luplow is a lefty killer. The outfielder owns a career .251 BA/.371 OBP/.556 SLG/.927 OPS line with a 145 wRC+ and 21 HR in 334 career plate appearances against southpaws. Luplow is an average defensive corner outfielder with three additional years of control, and while it is unclear how he would fit on the roster at this very moment, in the present tense, although he has a minor league option while rosters expand in September when he presumably will be called up. To be sure, he is a valuable bench/platoon piece to have down the stretch in an American League pennant race given the glut of good left-handed hurlers.
Johnson is back with his original ballclub, as the Rays signed him as an undrafted free agent in June 2010. He, however, was released the following April and be picked up by an Independent League team. After being released shortly thereafter, he signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks later that Summer. He also spent some time in Denver, with the Rockies.
Johnson pitched in one big league game for Cleveland this season, ironically against the Rays, and he posted respectable results in Triple-A, performing to a 3.32 ERA and a 3.75 FIP, with a 34.0 K%, a 3.18 K/BB, and a 1.62 WHIP across 21.2 innings pitched. The right-hander boasts a mid-90s fastball with plus ride, on which he posted a 70% whiff rate this season, as well as a 12-6 curveball with 58.3 inches of vertical movement, and 10.7 inches of horizontal movement. It’s another example of the big stuff/shaky command type of pitcher that the Rays think they can work with and get more out of.
While Rays fans are likely angry because the team didn’t net a big name like Kris Bryant or a Craig Kimbrel, it should be remembered that they have made their fair share of acquisitions over the span of the season. Furthermore, Nick Anderson is slated to throw for the Bulls in the near future and is close to returning. Tyler Glasnow threw his first bullpen session today, since being injured, and he should be back sooner than later. Collin McHugh also threw a bullpen session today and is the closest among the injured relievers to returning. Brendan McKay and Chris Archer are close to being ready, while Brent Honeywell Jr. is locked and loaded, and Shane Baz could play a crucial role with the team after the Olympics. In other words, they are re-loading organically.