Now 25 years old, Chester was a 12th-round pick in 2017 who has topped out at the Double-A level so far in his career. He debuted there in 2019 and slashed .264/.299/.405 with a pair of home runs in 127 plate appearances. Overall, Chester has batted .284/.340/.397 and smacked 13 homers over 1,283 trips to the plate in the minors. Chester did not rank among the Rays’ 30 best prospects at Baseball America, FanGraphs or MLB.com before the trade.
The Rangers are acquiring first baseman Nate Lowe from the Rays for catcher Heriberto Hernandez, infielder Osleivis Basabe and outfielder Alexander Ovalles. The Rays are sending first baseman Jake Guenther and a player to be named later to Texas along with Lowe. Tampa Bay has announced the deal.
Lowe, 25, is the only player in the deal with Major League service time, but he was unable to break into the first-string rotation with Tampa. The Rays have a plethora of options at first base and designated hitter, splitting time primarily between Ji-Man Choi and Yandy Diaz. Yoshi Tsutsugo also fits into the timeshare, while Mike Brosseau and Brandon Lowe are capable of handling the position. There simply wasn’t much room for Lowe to break into a regular role.
Ronald Guzman has kept one foot on the first base bag the last three seasons for the Rangers, but a triple slash of .230/.308/.417 leaves room for an upgrade. The 26-year-old has posted just 0.9 bWAR per 650 plate appearances over that time. Lowe is now in line to take over for Guzman as the Rangers’ primary first baseman, president of baseball operations Jon Daniels told TR Sullivan of MLB.com and other reporters. In 245 plate appearances in 71 games over the past two seasons, Lowe has slashed .251/.322/.447, good for a 106 wRC+. While that may not blow your hat away, conversely, Guzman owns a career 85 wRC+.
Texas fans might remember Guenther from his time at TCU. The Rays chose him in the seventh round of the 2019 draft, giving him time to get just one professional season under his belt. He raked in that time, slashing .320/.431/.423 in the Appalachian League. Despite his lack of professional time, Guenther might be closer to the big leagues than it may seem, as he’ll turn 24 years old in May.
Basabe (No. 20) and Hernandez (24) ranked among the Rangers’ top 30 prospects at MLB.com before the trade. The 20-year-old Basabe has so far topped out in Low-A ball, though he has only accrued 10 plate appearances there. MLB.com is bullish on Basabe, complimenting his contact-oriented skills at the plate and noting his “well-above-average speed” could help him turn into “a dynamic basestealer.”
Hernandez, also 20, has torn the cover off the ball between the rookie and Low-A levels since his professional career began in 2020. To this point, Hernandez has batted .320/.450/.635 with 23 home runs in 473 minor league plate appearances. FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen ranked Hernandez third in the Rangers’ system last April and argued he could “be a very special hitter,” though Longenhagen isn’t high on his defense behind the plate.
Ovalles, yet another 20-year-old, isn’t as highly regarded as Basabe or Hernandez. He does have the most experience among the three in Low-A (100 plate appearances), but Ovalles only put up a .187/.250/.319 line there in 2019.
Initial news of the trade came from MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand (via Twitter). Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star Telegram (via Twitter) noted the inclusion of Basabe as part of the six-player deal. Rangers’ Executive Vice President of Communications John Blake filled in the rest of the deal (via Twitter).
Some updates from the Dominican League…
- Rays first baseman Nate Lowe has left his Dominican League team in order to prepare for the MLB season, per Escogido Baseball (via Twitter). Officially, Lowe’s departure was a personal decision, but he was reportedly concerned about rising cases of COVID-19 and didn’t want to put his readiness for the 2021 MLB season at risk. Lowe faces stiff competition for playing time with the Rays. He has managed 245 plate appearances over the past two seasons with a capable .251/.322/.447 slash line, but his playing time has largely come with Ji-Man Choi on the shelf. Lowe faces a similar barrier to playing time next seasno, as he currently sits behind Choi and Yoshi Tsutsugo as lefty first-baseman/designated-hitter-types.
- Top MLB prospect Wander Franco is recovering from “discomfort in his right bicep,” per Escogido Baseball (via Twitter). Franco has been excellent thus far with a triple slash of .350/.435/.500 in the Dominican League. The injury does not appear to be more than a day-to-day issue for the highly-touted shortstop. Rays fans are surely hopeful that Franco will find his way to the big-league roster this season. While it’s tough to improve upon a roster that won the American League pennant, adding a 80-rated hit tool from the minors is one way to upgrade. The Rays have shown a willingness to be patient with their prospects, however, and Willy Adames is capably holding down the shortstop spot in the meantime. Beyond Adames, the Rays boast a healthy stable of infielders, even before expanding to include other top Rays’ prospects. Taylor Walls, Vidal Brujan, and Kevin Padlo could soon compete for big-league at-bats, though none threaten Franco’s long-term claim to an infield spot.
The Rays have placed corner infielder Yandy Diaz on the 10-day injured list due to a right hamstring strain, the club announced. Infielder Nate Lowe has been called up from the alternate training site to take Diaz’s spot on the active roster.
While the Rays have been hit hard by pitching injuries in recent weeks, Diaz is a notable loss on the position player side. Playing mostly every day at third base for the Rays, Diaz has hit .307/.428/.386 this season, good for a 130 OPS+ and 136 wRC+ over 138 plate appearances. Diaz’s patience at the plate is obviously the big contributor to his production, as he has shown very little power and not even much hard contact, as Statcast ranks Diaz in the bottom ninth percentile in barrels and in the bottom 19th percentile in hard-hit balls.
Still, losing a player with a .428 OBP is naturally a big loss to any lineup, though the versatile Rays are better equipped than most teams to withstand Diaz’s absence. Joey Wendle seems likely to get the bulk of third base work with Diaz out, and Yoshi Tsutsugo and Mike Brosseau on hand for further depth.
Lowe could also be in the picture, as he played a handful of games at third base during 50 games with Tampa Bay last season. Lowe hit .263/.325/.454 with seven home runs over his first 169 PA in the majors, and the well-regarded prospect has an impressive .300/.400/.483 slash line and 54 homes over 1718 career plate appearances at the minor league level.
The Rays cut seven players from their 26-man roster today, as per a team announcement (Twitter link). Outfielder Randy Arozarena, right-hander Trevor Richards, left-hander Anthony Banda, infielders Nate Lowe and Mike Brosseau, first baseman/outfielder Brian O’Grady and two-way player Brendan McKay are were all optioned to Triple-A.
Given how the Rays so often shuttle players from Triple-A and the big leagues, it’s safe to assume all seven of these names will wind up seeing action for the club this season, should the season get underway. Tampa Bay is perhaps better equipped than most teams to handle the challenges posed by a potential shortened schedule and an effort to fit as many games as possible into an abbreviated period of time, as the Rays’ strong farm system gives them a lot of extra depth, and many of their players (especially pitchers) are already used to frequent trips up and down the ladder.
Since Lowe, Ji-Man Choi, and the newly-acquired Yoshitomo Tsutsugo are all left-handed hitters, it made sense that the younger Lowe would be the odd man out of the first base/DH mix. The same is true for O’Grady, acquired in a trade with the Reds back in November.
Arozarena is also a newcomer to Tampa Bay, having been acquired as part of the multi-player trade with the Cardinals in January that brought Jose Martinez to the Rays. Martinez is the right-handed complement to Choi and Tsutsugo (though the Rays have been experimenting with Tsutsugo as a part-time third baseman and outfielder), while Arozarena will provide outfield depth at Triple-A. Arozarena’s chances of making the Opening Day roster were lessened when the Rays picked up Manuel Margot from the Padres, though Arozarena’s ability to play all three outfield positions will very likely make him the first call-up should an injury or need arise in the Rays’ outfield.
The delayed start to the season should give Blake Snell and Tyler Glasnow time to get fully healthy, which meant McKay and Richards were suddenly expendable. Since the Rays still plan to occasionally spell their starters by using openers, Richards will probably get action either in a traditional starting role or as a bulk pitcher behind an opener — he served in both capacities after being acquired by the Marlins at last year’s trade deadline. In fact, it could be easy to see a scenario where Richards and “Two Way McKay” are combined together in a piggyback outing, with the intriguing McKay (one of the game’s top prospects) also serving as an X-factor at the plate.
We’ll track the flurry of notable callups as roster expand on September 1.
- The Mets promoted left-hander Daniel Zamora and right-hander Tyler Bashlor from Triple-A, and also selected the contract of second baseman Sam Haggerty. (The club posted a fun video on its Twitter account of the players receiving the news.) A 24th-round pick for Cleveland in the 2015 draft, Haggerty came to the Mets last winter part of the trade that sent Kevin Plawecki to the Indians. Haggerty began the year at low-A ball and worked his way up to the Show after posting a .907 OPS over 49 plate appearances at the Triple-A level.
- The Diamondbacks announced a slew of callups today. Most notably, the club has selected the contract of outfielder Abraham Almonte and recalled right-hander Jon Duplantier. Almonte, 30, has logged time as a reserve each of the past six seasons, to the tune of a career .237/.294/.367 slash (79 wRC+). Duplantier, one of the club’s top pitching prospects, has battled injury issues in recent years but offers a high-upside bullpen piece for the stretch run.
- The Rays’ September additions include a number of notable players, with Nate Lowe headlining a group of five call-ups. He’ll be joined by Peter Fairbanks and Daniel Robertson, among others.
- The Braves announced they’ve recalled utilityman Johan Camargo. Camargo was optioned after the club signed Adeiny Hechavarría to replace the injured Dansby Swanson at shortstop. Swanson’s back now, and Hechavarría is still on hand, so it’ll be a tough climb for Camargo, who’s mired in a dreadful season. He’s only a year removed from a productive age-24 campaign, though.
- The Padres will select the contract of right-handed reliever David Bednar, reports Jon Heyman of the MLB Network (via Twitter). The 24 year-old gets a little lost among the Padres’ loaded system, but he boasts a pair of plus offerings in his fastball and curveball, opine Kiley McDaniel and Eric Lognenhagen of Fangraphs. Despite a less-than-stellar reputation for his command, Bednar has dazzled in the Texas League this season, pitching to a 2.95 ERA with elite strikeout (35.8%) and walk (7.5%) numbers.
- The Indians announced today they have selected the contracts of Ryan Flaherty and James Hoyt. They’ve also recalled Eric Haase. Flaherty’s solid Triple-A work this year has earned him his seventh consecutive big league season, where he’ll serve as infield depth for the club down José Ramírez. Hoyt logged 72.2 innings with the Astros from 2016-2018 and offers right-handed bullpen depth, while Haase, 26, is a power-hitting catcher with contact issues.
- The Yankees announced they have selected left-hander Tyler Lyons. The veteran reliever just signed a minor-league contract with the organization a few weeks ago and adds depth to a loaded bullpen. Right-hander David Hale was transferred to the 60-day injured list to clear 40-man space. The Bombers also recalled right-handers Ryan Dull and Chance Adams and outfielder Clint Frazier.
- The Cardinals have selected catcher Joe Hudson, per a team announcement. The 28 year-old got into eight games last year with the Angels. He’s had a tough season offensively with Triple-A Memphis, slashing .223/.293/.411. Outfielder Lane Thomas was transferred to the 60-day injured list with a season-ending wrist injury. Anne Rogers of MLB.com tweets that veteran backstop Matt Wieters is day-to-day with a calf strain, so the club elected to bring Hudson and Andrew Knizner aboard to bolster their catching depth.
- The Brewers announced they have selected the contract of first baseman Tyler Austin. A former Yankee, Twin and Giant, Austin has a strong minor-league track record and brings some right-handed power, but has mustered only a .220/.288/.451 line in 556 career MLB plate appearances thanks to untenable strikeout rates.
- Top Astros prospect Kyle Tucker isn’t up yet, but he will be shortly, tweets Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle. Houston’s additional reinforcements will be announced tomorrow, Rome adds. The 22 year-old corner outfielder has again laid waste to the Triple-A Pacific Coast League and has nothing left to prove at the minor-league level, but opportunities have been few and far between in the Astros’ loaded lineup.
- Just-acquired first baseman Ryan McBroom will be selected to the Royals’ active roster shortly, tweets Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com. As Flanagan notes, the 27 year-old was likely to be added to the 40-man this offseason to protect him from the Rule V draft regardless, so there’s little harm in giving him his first taste of MLB action in the meantime. The former 15th-rounder has put up strong offensive numbers throughout his minor-league career, culminating in a .315/.402/.574 line in the Triple-A International League this season.
The Rays’ decision to option Nate Lowe back to Triple-A Durham following the trade deadline was a “very tough call,” manager Kevin Cash tells Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. With the acquisition of Jesus Aguilar, however, the Rays had three first basemen on the roster and Ji-Man Choi’s lack of minor league options once again came into play. Tampa Bay seems loath to risk losing Choi on waivers, but Lowe has handily outperformed him at the plate so far, hitting .294/.362/.510 to Choi’s .265/.361/.423. Choi has shown better knowledge of the strike zone, but Lowe nevertheless appears to be the better offensive option between the two (even if he’s had some good fortune in terms of a .362 average on balls in play). Cash expects that Lowe will be back up with the club “soon,” but that redundancy will eventually be an issue the Rays need to address.
More out of the AL East…
- Trey Mancini remains in Baltimore after the trade deadline, but the decision not to move him doesn’t mean an extension is the next step for the slugger. “Looking at contract extensions is just not at the forefront of my plate right now,” Orioles general manager Mike Elias tells MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko, “but certainly he’s an attractive guy to have here for a while.” It’s not the first time that Elias, hired to spearhead the Orioles’ rebuild this offseason, has suggested that he views Mancini as a potential long-term piece. But Mancini is already controlled through 2022 — his age-30 season. Given that he won’t even reach arbitration until this winter, there’s simply not much urgency to extend Mancini, even if he’s in the midst of the best season of his young career. Through 443 plate appearances, Mancini has posted a robust .282/.343/.539 slash (130 OPS+) with a career-high 25 home runs. Elias also praised the recent play of outfielder Anthony Santander the manner in which he has begun to establish himself as a viable big league hitter.
- The Blue Jays have a crowded outfield mix, but newly acquired Derek Fisher is going to get regular playing time and an opportunity to establish himself as a fixture in the Toronto outfield, Shi Davidi of Sportsnet writes. Most of Fisher’s reps will come in center or right field, as Toronto doesn’t want to disrupt Lourdes Gurriel Jr.’s transition to left field (or his offensive breakout). That leaves Fisher, Teoscar Hernandez, Randal Grichuk and Billy McKinney vying for playing time between center, right and occasional reps at DH. Hernandez has been on an otherworldly tear, clubbing seven homers and three doubles in his past 15 games, which should help to keep him in the lineup. If there’s to be an odd man out, McKinney seems the likeliest candidate, given that he has minor league options remaining. But the semi logjam also serves as a reminder that Randal Grichuk hasn’t performed anywhere near as well as hoped in the first season of the head-scratching extension to which the Jays signed him back in April. He’s played solid defense, but Grichuk hasn’t exactly seized an everyday role with his .232/.290/.418 batting line.
The Rays’ decision to waive C.J. Cron on the heels of a 30-homer campaign in the offseason raised plenty of eyebrows — particularly when it became apparent that the plan to replace him was to entrust the bulk of first base/designated hitter duties to Ji-Man Choi, Yandy Diaz and reclamation project Avisail Garcia. To this point in the season, that trio has been reasonably productive.
Through 294 plate appearances, Choi has batted .257/.348/.410 with nine homers, nine doubles and a triple. He’s walked at a healthy 11.4 percent clip against a 20.4 percent strikeout rate and done so while playing for less than $1MM as a pre-arbitration player. Up until recently, Choi was even more productive. The endpoint here is arbitrary, admittedly, but Choi carried a .287/.363/.467 line as recently as June 14. Since that time, he’s floundered with a .160/.306/.220 slash line in 62 plate appearances. He’s drawn 10 walks in that time against 11 strikeouts, so he’s maintained his discipline. However, Choi has been plagued by a .179 average on balls in play over that stretch, and the swoon has tarnished his season line.
A slump of that nature is never welcome for any hitter, but Choi’s downturn in performance is of particular concern for him given the offensive explosion of rookie/top prospect Nate Lowe. Since being summoned back for his second stint of big league work this season (when Choi landed on the IL due to an ankle injury), Lowe has obliterated big league pitching. It’s only 41 plate appearances, but the former 13th-round pick has belted five homers and three doubles with a .371/.463/.886 slash that’s impossible for the Rays to ignore. Overall, Lowe is hitting .315/.386/.589 in 75 plate appearances in his debut season.
Choi (who was activated from the IL two days ago) and Lowe can coexist in the same lineup for now, but as Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times mentions in his latest Rays notebook, the organization could soon have to choose between the two. The Rays will get Brandon Lowe back from the IL in the near future, which muddies the roster. His return will push Joey Wendle back to a utility/bench role, where he’ll join another hot-hitting rookie, Mike Brosseau, and whichever of Travis d’Arnaud or Mike Zunino isn’t starting on a given day. Choi is out of minor league options, so he can’t be sent to the minors without being exposed to waivers.
Wendle does have a minor league option remaining, which is of note given that he hasn’t hit well at all since returning from a fractured wrist (.198/.272/.253). However, he’s capable of playing virtually any position on the diamond, whereas Choi is a first baseman only. Optioning Wendle to accommodate the return of Lowe (Brandon, that is) wouldn’t leave manager Kevin Cash with much in the way of defensive flexibility. An in-game injury to Willy Adames in that scenario would prove particularly problematic, given that Wendle is the only real alternative to him at shortstop.
The Rays could delay any potential decision by dropping a reliever and going back to a four-man bench, but if they go that route, the preferred choice could be to bring outfielder Guillermo Heredia back up to the Majors. Cash called the decision to option Heredia the “toughest send-down” of the season earlier this week. Heredia rejoined the team as the 26th man for yesterday’s doubleheader but has since been sent back to Triple-A Durham.
As if that didn’t present enough options for a limited number of roster spots, the Rays will soon see infielder/outfielder Daniel Robertson and third baseman Matt Duffy embark on minor league rehab assignments, as Topkin reported last weekend (Twitter links). Both have minor league options remaining, but their impending returns only add another variable to the equation.
Certainly, the upcoming trade deadline could alter the roster construction and resolve some of these issues. It’s possible, too, that additional injuries will arise and render some of the decisions moot for an additional period of time. But as things currently stand, the Rays seem like they’ll have a tough call on their hands in the not-too-distant future.
Choi missed the minimum ten games for a sprained left ankle. He is a key cog in the middle of the Rays lineup. With little margin for error in a top-heavy American League, the Rays could stand to get a little more production from him after a .266/.351/.423 first half.
For now, manager Kevin Cash will rotate Choi with Nate Lowe, tweets Topkin. Lowe would most naturally be used as a roster replacement for Choi, but Cash is also prepared to use Lowe at third base, where he’s spent time in the minors. For now, they simply don’t want to take Lowe out of the lineup as the 24-year-old has hit .291/.355/.509 with 3 home runs in 15 games. That kind of production out of the first base spot would go a long way in helping the Rays secure a spot in this year’s playoffs.
With the Rays, however, everything is fluid, and one day’s cleanup hitter could be back in Triple-A the next. Yandy Diaz also figures to play a prominent role in the corner infield rotation as the regular starter at third now that he’s discovered a power stroke (.278/.351/.477 on the year). Two other third base options remain on the shelf: Matt Duffy and Daniel Robertson are close enough to returning that each of them could be on rehab assignments by next week, per Topkin (Twitter links).
Gibaut has a fairly high ceiling as a bullpen piece, but his first taste of the majors was short: one appearance, two innings, two earned runs, two walks, two strikeouts, one hit.
The Rays announced some roster moves this morning, including the activation of infielder Yandy Diaz from the 10-day injured list. Nate Lowe, called up just yesterday from Triple-A, is on his way back to the minors in a corresponding move. The Rays also optioned right-hander Adam Kolarek yesterday, but Kolarek is now making a quick return to the big leagues since southpaw Jose Alvarado has been placed on the family medical emergency list.
Diaz hit the IL on May 23, with a retroactive placement to May 20, with a left hand contusion after being hit by a pitch from the Yankees’ Chance Adams. While Diaz was reportedly still feeling some soreness in his hand, a brief stint in extended Spring Training camp seems to have done the trick, and the corner infielder will now make his return to Tampa Bay’s lineup. Acquired as part of the three-team trade that sent Jake Bauers to Cleveland last December, Diaz has hit an impressive .256/.339/.500 with nine homers over 180 plate appearances in a Rays uniform, delivering on the promise that his hard-hit ball statistics indicated during his time with the Tribe.
Lowe’s latest turn in the Show lasted only a day, as the slugging first base prospect now has a .263/.310/.316 slash line over 42 PA this season. It stands to reason that Lowe will continue to be shuffled between the majors and minors as circumstances warrant, though the Rays will surely keep an eye on his service time so as to gain an extra year of team control over the youngster.