10:40am: The Rays announced the move. Righty Jose De Leon was optioned back to Durham in place of Fairbanks.
Fairbanks, 25, was acquired in a perhaps under-the-radar deadline trade that sent fellow prospect Nick Solak from the Rays to the Rangers. The right-hander brings an electric two-pitch mix to the Tampa Bay bullpen. Both MLB.com and Fangraphs give him a 70 grade (on the 20-80 scale) for his fastball and a 55 on his slider, though Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel noted in their ranking of the prospects moved at this year’s deadline that Fairbanks’ slider will flash plus-plus (70) at times as well. MLB.com lists Fairbanks 24th among Rays farmhands, while he checks in at No. 22 on Baseball America’s list and No. 30 over at Fangraphs.
Fairbanks already made his MLB debut with the Rangers earlier this season, but he’ll now give the Rays their first look at him on a Major League mound. The 2015 ninth-rounder has pitched to a 3.96 ERA with a whopping 14.6 K/9, 3.0 BB/9, 0.49 HR/9 and a well above-average ground-ball rate in 36 1/3 minor league innings in 2019. His brief stint with the Rangers didn’t go well, as he nine earned runs and walked seven batters in 8 2/3 innings, but Fairbanks also collected 15 strikeouts in at time and averaged 97.3 mph on his heater.
There’s a good bit of injury risk with Fairbanks, as he’s already had Tommy John surgery twice — once in high school and once again in 2017 while in the Rangers’ system. He missed the entire 2018 season on the heels of that 2017 surgery, so Fairbanks is only in his first year back from the procedure. The minor league results have been rather encouraging, however, and he’ll now get a chance to show off his high-octane right arm as he auditions for a long term spot in the club’s relief mix. The Rays figure to be somewhat cautious not only with regard to his season-long workload but also in pitching Fairbanks on back to back days — at least in 2019.
Fairbanks will be controllable through at least the 2025 season, depending on future optional assignments, and the earliest he’d be eligible for arbitration would be after the 2022 season.