As the deadline to add players to the 40-man roster in advance of the Rule 5 draft came to pass on Friday, the Tampa Bay Rays busily added OF Josh Lowe, RHP Drew Strotman, and INF Taylor Walls to the roster. To create room on the 40-man roster, the Rays designated OF Hunter Renfroe and UTL Brian O’Grady for assignment.
Renfroe was acquired in the 2019 Tommy Pham deal. The 28-year-old added power (.238 ISO) and solid defense as touted, yet he also posted career lows in batting average (.156), OBP (.252), SLG (.393), and wOBA (.307).
VP of Baseball Operations Peter Bendix said the decision to DFA Renfroe — who was likely to be non-tendered — was similar to the decision to designate Matt Duffy a year ago, in that the move gives Renfroe a head start on the free-agent market as opposed to being non-tendered in early December.
There’s only so much playing time to go around. At this point, we weren’t able to commit to him, and we figured it was best for everyone involved to let him get into the free-agent market at this point rather than waiting until the non-tender deadline.— Peter Bendix
The team still has Kevin Kiermaier, Austin Meadows, Randy Arozarena, and Miguel Margot, along with Yoshi Tsutsugo and Brett Phillips. Plus, the above mention Lowe is considered to be a good outfielder.
O’Grady was added in a trade with Cincinnati last November and spent the majority of the 2020 season in Port Charlotte, at the Rays alternate training site. He was recalled twice last season — August 4-5, and August 29-September 1 — and collected two hits in five at-bats.
It is possible the Rays could work out a trade for both players.
Lowe was Tampa Bay’s top draft pick in 2016 and was part of the 60-man player pool in 2020. Lowe was fantastic with Double-A Montgomery in 2019, slashing .252 BA/.341 OBP/.442 SLG/.783 OPS/.358 wOBA with a 128 wRC+. He was just two home runs shy of being a 20-20 player and finished the season with career bests in runs scored (70), homers (18), runs batted in (62), and stolen bases (30). Lowe played well in the Arizona Fall League in 2019, before he underwent shoulder surgery and would have missed the early portion of the schedule.
Strotman was a wildcard (of sorts) to be added in that he needed Tommy John surgery shortly after he made his professional debut in 2018. In 2019, he pitched just 24 rehab innings in the Gulf Coast League, as well as 21 innings in the Arizona Fall League.
He, however, reportedly looked good in the recently-completed Instructional League, where he showed a mid-90s fastball and added a much-improved cutter.
He was really able to show a lot of promise. (The cutter) has graded out at as a really strong pitch.— Peter Bendix
Walls was part of Spring Training prior to the pandemic lock-down, as well as part of the 60-man player pool all summer. The 24-year-old has been a steady performer over the last two seasons. Walls was named the organization’s top defender in the minors twice, while his offensive abilities continue to improve. The switch-hitting Walls slashed .270 BA/.343 OBP/.452 SLG/.795 OPS with a career-high 10 home runs and 28 steals (albeit in 43 attempts) in 2019. As Neil Solondz (Rays Radio) wrote, “There are many that believe he can be a good MLB regular either at one position or rotated through several spots.”
The Rays 40-man roster is currently full.