The Rays have optioned rookie outfielder Josh Lowe to Triple-A Durham and designated right-hander Robert Dugger for assignment, tweets Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. The moves reduce the Rays’ active roster count from 28 to 26.
Lowe, one of the sport’s top prospects, broke camp with the big league club after Tampa Bay’s late-spring trade of Austin Meadows to Detroit. The lefty-hitting outfielder has gotten off to a slow start, however, hitting .188/.257/.344 with one home run over 71 plate appearances. Lowe’s 38% strikeout percentage and 67.9% contact rate are both far worse than this year’s respective league averages (22.9% and 75.8%). Lowe also had an elevated 26.2% strikeout rate in Triple-A last year, but he more than offset that with 22 homers, 26 stolen bases and a robust 13% walk percentage.
There’s still plenty of time for the 24-year-old to put things together well enough and allow his combination of power, athleticism, and plate discipline to overcome swing-and-miss issues. Yet for the time being, the Rays will get him more run against minor league pitching to try to work through those contact concerns. Tampa Bay will proceed with an outfield of Kevin Kiermaier, Manuel Margot, Randy Arozarena, Harold Ramírez and Brett Phillips. Of that group, only Arozarena could be optioned, making Lowe the odd man out as rosters shrunk if the Rays didn’t want to risk losing Ramírez or Phillips on waivers.
Between Lowe’s early struggles and the Rays’ outfield depth, there’s a case to be made for his option strictly from a baseball perspective. Depending upon how long he’s in the minor leagues, though, the assignment could have an effect on his window of team control.
Lowe entered this season with 26 days of MLB service, MLBTR has learned. Players are credited with a full service year upon reaching 172 days on an active roster. That means he needs to spend at least 146 days in the majors this season to end the 2022 campaign with over one year of service. Lowe spent around 25 days on the roster before being optioned, leaving him approximately 121 days from the one-year threshold. There’s still time to reach that mark, but if the optional assignment lingers into June, Lowe’s path to free agency after the 2027 season could come into question.
Dugger was just added to the big league club yesterday. He worked 5 1/3 innings of three-run ball in mop-up relief during the team’s loss to the Twins. That seemed as if it’d make him a quick DFA candidate, considering his 87 pitches took him out of commission for a few days. Dugger couldn’t be optioned, so the only way to take him off the active roster was via DFA.
Tampa Bay signed Dugger to a minor league contract in Spring Training. The 26-year-old has made five appearances and worked 16 frames with Durham, posting a 3.94 ERA with 13 strikeouts and seven walks. By calling him up yesterday, the Rays assume the risk of losing him from the organization. They’ll presumably place him on waivers in the coming days, and Dugger would have the right to refuse a new minor league assignment if he passes through unclaimed by virtue of having previously been outrighted in his career.