While the bulk of Tampa Bay’s trade deadline moves came on Monday, and over the last few months, the Rays were able to make a handful of under-the-radar moves on Tuesday by the 6:00 pm deadline. Tampa Bay acquired pitchers Adrian Sampson and Manuel Rodriguez — as well as international free-agent bonus pool space — from the Cubs for farmhand Josh Roberson. They also acquired catcher Alex Jackson from the Brewers for right-hander Evan McKendry. It should also be noted that Tampa Bay parted ways with right-hander Luis Patiño for cash considerations from the White Sox.
Sampson joined Chicago’s rotation last season as the team dealt with injuries to Marcus Stroman, Drew Smyly, and Wade Miley. The right-hander responded well, stringing together 21 outings (19 starts) with a 3.28 ERA and a 3.79 FIP. His low strikeout rate and .288 BABIP suggest that a measure of good luck was at play.
Sampson was optioned to Triple-A after he lost the Cubs’ fifth-starter battle to Hayden Wesneski. Then, in May of this season, he hit the Injured List due to a meniscal debridement procedure on his right knee. As a consequence, he was removed from the Cubs’ 40-man roster once he recovered and, after he accepted an outright assignment to Triple-A, he struggled to a 10.17 ERA and 7.42 FIP across 23 innings, with a 1.96 WHIP and a 1.47 K/BB.
Sampson is a kitchen sink kind of hurler that relies primarily on a 90 mph sinker, an 81 mph slider that has exceptional depth and short glove-side cut, and a whiffy 90 mph and fourseam fastball that has some natural sinking action, while also mixing in an 83 mph changeup that has some natural sink and obvious arm-side fade. He could be a nice bulk guy with a few tweaks to his repertoire.
Rodriguez is the bigger get for the Rays. The 26-year-old righty logged a total of 31.1 innings out of the Cubs’ bullpen from 2021-22 with limited success … especially in 2022, when he performed to a 3.29 ERA and 4.87 FIP, albeit with a 1.39 WHIP, and a 0.89 K/BB across 13.2 innings. He was bumped from the 40-man roster in January to make room for Julian Merryweather before he was outrighted to Triple-A Iowa.
Boasting an 89 mph slider that has exceptional depth, a blazing 97 mph sinker that has some arm-side run and natural sinking action, and a 97 mph worm-killer fourseam fastball, Rodriguez has posted interesting numbers despite an unlucky 4.42 ERA thanks to a .409 BABIP; his 2.93 FIP bears that out. In 38.2 frames, Rodriguez has managed to punch out 32.7% of the batters he has faced, although he’s walked 10.5% of batters. He’s also an extreme worm-killer hurler, boasting a groundball rate of 58.4% to pair with his minuscule 0.47% HR/9.
Both Rodriguez and Sampson will start their Tampa Bay tenure at Triple-A Durham.
Jackson, 27, made his big league debut with the Braves in 2019. Even though he’s appeared in the big leagues every season since he’s never managed to stick on a major league roster. He also hasn’t been able to put up big numbers in the majors, slashing just .141 BA/.243 OBP/.227 SLG/.470 OPS in 185 major league plate appearances. However, he’s hit much better in the minor leagues, with a career slash line of .244 BA/.327 OBP/.523 SLG/.850 OPS across 905 plate appearances at Triple-A. Because of it, Jackson is an interesting addition for Tampa Bay, which needed additional catching depth after Francisco Mejia was placed on the IL on July 21 with a left knee MCL sprain.