Tampa Bay acquired Sampson from the Cubs on the afternoon of the trade deadline. Clearly, his inclusion in that deal was financially motivated. The Rays picked up the roughly $633K remaining on Sampson’s $1.9MM arbitration contract. In exchange, Tampa Bay acquired some international signing bonus space and upgraded their bullpen depth by swapping Triple-A relievers Josh Roberson for Manuel Rodríguez.
Sampson hasn’t made a big league appearance this season. The well-traveled hurler threw 104 1/3 innings for the Cubs a season ago, pitching to a 3.11 ERA. A below-average 17.1% strikeout rate made it seem questionable he’d be able to replicate that kind of run prevention, but the Cubs felt comfortable enough with him as a depth arm to sign him for just under $2MM rather than non-tender him.
Hayden Wesneski beat out Sampson for the fifth starter job in Spring Training. After being optioned to the minors, he suffered a right knee injury that required arthroscopic surgery. Rather than reinstate him from the 60-day injured list, Chicago ran him through outright waivers when he returned to health a couple weeks ago. The 31-year-old has struggled when healthy enough to pitch for Triple-A Iowa, allowing a 10.17 ERA across 23 frames.
While it’s been more or less a lost season, Sampson could find some minor league interest elsewhere. The Rays are paying what remains of his salary. If he cracks the majors with another team this year, that club would only pay him the prorated portion of the $720K league minimum. He owns a 4.43 ERA through parts of five years at the major league level and is only a season removed from the best production of his MLB career.