Rays make a few small deals, feel good going forward

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays made a couple of small trades Friday to add minor-league depth but no other big deals before baseball’s 4 p.m. deadline.

They talked about a lot of possibilities to add to their pitching staff but didn’t get one of the handful of potentially helpful starters who were available or any of the experienced relievers who changed teams, headlined by Craig Kimbrel.

Similarly, they were in talks on several of the available big-name hitters, including Kris Bryant.

Though willing to give up prospects and take on money, they didn’t feel the deals were worth doing given the high acquisition costs and were comfortable going forward after acquiring veteran designated hitter Nelson Cruz last week and reliever JT Chargois Thursday in a swap for Diego Castillo.

“The Nelly Cruz acquisition was a big one for us and was one that just happened early. But that was a very targeted move that by and large filled out our position player group,” Rays general manager Erik Neander said Friday.

“I’d say we were in the mix of just about anything that was out there, any player that was moved, more or less. We were in there, we did our work on it, we were prepared. But we really like our group.”

Content with their position players, the bigger question was whether they added pitching. “A little trickier about how to handle that,” Neander said.

But between the pitchers they currently have active, a handful of veteran relievers they expect to return from injuries over the next two-four weeks (plus the potential to get back injured starters Chris Archer sooner and maybe Tyler Glasnow later) and several options at Triple-A (including Shane Baz, currently with the U.S. Olympic team), they felt comfortable standing pat.

“We were in the mix on just about anything, it’s our job,” Neander said. “But not ultimately that close to any more impactful blockbuster-type moves.”

Instead, the Rays added three players with big-league experience to provide depth and help when needed.

One was right-handed reliever Shawn Armstrong, 30, who has spent parts of seven seasons with the Indians and Orioles, including 20 games this year with an 8.55 ERA. He was acquired for cash from Baltimore. Armstrong, who was at Triple-A, and joined the Rays’ Durham team and is not on the 40-man roster.

The other two came from Cleveland: outfielder Jordan Luplow and right-handed reliever DJ Johnson, in exchange for Double-A pitcher Peyton Battenfield.

Luplow, 27, is a right-handed hitter known for doing well against lefties (.251 with a .927 OPS and 21 homers in 279 at-bats) who also can play the infield. He was to rejoin the Indians Friday after rehabbing a left ankle sprain. Johnson, 31, has big-league time with the Rockies and Indians but was at Triple-A. Pitchers Sean Poppen and Jake Reed, just claimed on waivers, were designated for assignment to clear room on the 40-man roster.

Neander said the Rays “absolutely” felt good with what they did, and didn’t, do.

“Definitely no disappointment. Nothing like that,” he said. “Where we were in our assessment, we felt like we improved our club, we felt like we added some pieces to our minor leagues that we anticipate helping us down the line.

“In our opinion, we made our major-league team considerably better, as well. So we’ll take that.”

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