2:45pm: The Rays’ return for Mastrobuoni will be 21-year-old righty Alfredo Zarraga, Topkin further reports. The Cubs announced the trade shortly after Topkin’s report.
The 21-year-old Zarraga (22 tomorrow) has pitched just 18 2/3 professional innings with the Cubs organization, all in 2022, when he posted a 1.93 ERA and 29-to-9 K/BB ratio in 18 2/3 innings across two Class-A levels. Topkin tweets that Zarraga suffered a broken right hand in August, which ended his season, though there’s no indication that he won’t be ready for Spring Training.
2:03pm: The Rays and Cubs have agreed to a trade that would send infielder/outfielder Miles Mastrobuoni to Chicago, per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. In exchange, the Rays will receive a minor league pitcher whose identity is not yet known.
Mastrobuoni, 27, was a 14th round draft pick of the Rays in 2016. He hasn’t been a highly-touted prospect for much of his time in the minors, but did crack the FanGraphs list of top Tampa farmhands coming into 2022, getting the #37 slot. He then cracked the Baseball America list for the first at the 2022 midseason update at #20.
He climbed his way onto those lists by continuing to hit up the minor league ladder while showcasing a classic Tampa Bay defensive versatility. In 2022, he got into 129 Triple-A games, hitting 16 home runs and stealing 23 bases, producing a batting line of .300/.377/.469 for a wRC+ of 126. He walked in 11% of his plate appearances while striking out in just 16.6% of them. Defensively, he played second base, third base, shortstop and all three outfield spots. That was enough to get him a brief promotion to the big leagues, as he had his contract selected in September but only got into eight games.
The Rays have a roster crunch that they have been dealing with in recent days, as they have many Rule 5 eligible players that they have to consider adding to their roster prior to today’s deadline. In the past week, they’ve declined a club option on Kevin Kiermaier, traded Ji-Man Choi and put Nick Anderson, Roman Quinn, Jimmy Yacabonis and Brendan McKay on waivers. Now Mastrobuoni is the latest victim of the squeeze.
For the Cubs, they have been rebuilding and have various positions that could be up for grabs, depending on how their offseason goes. Seiya Suzuki and Nico Hoerner seem likely to have regular roles, though Hoerner could potentially be moved from shortstop to second base. Ian Happ will be in the lineup but he’s also one year away from free agency and frequently mentioned in trade rumors. The rest of the lineup is currently a hodgepodge of unproven young players or veterans unlikely to be long-term building blocks. Mastrobuoni’s versatility should allow the Cubs to bounce him around to wherever they need, depending on what players they acquire during the offseason or how their young players develop going forward. He still has a full slate of options and has yet to reach arbitration, meaning he won’t cost the club much and can be sent to the minors if he doesn’t carve out a role on the big league club.