Rays drop Brett Phillips after trading for outfielder Jose Siri

ST. PETERSBURG — Brett Phillips walked out with love in his heart and a smile on his face.

Naturally.

On Monday, the Rays parted ways with the affable, Seminole native and fan-favorite outfielder after acquiring Jose Siri from Houston in what they see as a potentially big upgrade in center field.

Barely an hour after the Rays announced that Phillips had been designated for an assignment, he posted a video to his Twitter account with the message, “Nothing but love @RaysBaseball.”

He said it was “an absolute pleasure and honour” to play for his hometown team, the move “sucks, but we all know business is business”, and he appreciated the support during his three seasons with the Rays. He ended the video by urging fans to continue supporting the franchise and growing the fan base.

“We had,” he said, “a hell of a time.”

The Rays see center fielder Jose Siri as a potential two-way superstar. [ DAVID J. PHILLIP | AP ]

The Rays see Siri, 27, as a potential two-way superstar, already ranking as an elite defenseman and developing into an offensive profile as a right-handed hitter with immense speed and power.

“The physical capabilities are pretty spectacular on both sides of the ball – they’re top of the line tools,” said president of baseball operations Erik Neander. “Starting from where he is currently defensively, we have him as good a midfielder as there is in the game, if not the best. … And then, offensively, a bit behind. … I think he keeps ending up at home plate.

The 6-foot-2, 175-pound player hit .304 with four home runs, nine RBIs and a .956 OPS in his impressive 21-game debut last September, but just 0.178-3-10-0.542 in 48 games this season . two stints with the Astros. He was playing with Triple-A Sugar Land when the trade took place. “Probably realistically the answer lies somewhere in the middle of that,” Neander said.

The Rays paid a bit of a heavy price, trading promising pitching prospects Seth Johnson (who is undergoing elbow surgery from Tommy John this week) and Jayden Murray in what was a three-way deal that also included Trey Mancini ranging from Baltimore in Houston. Johnson was sent to the Orioles, Murray to the Astros. (Baltimore also received pitching prospect Chayce McDermott from Houston.)

Phillips, 28, is also an elite defender who has struggled offensively. He’s hitting .147 (lowest in the majors, minimum 150 at bat) with five home runs, 14 RBIs and a .514 OPS in 75 games, hitting nearly half the time. He did, however, deliver one of the franchise’s defining moments, the blow that led to the wild win over the Dodgers in Game 4 of the 2020 World Series.

Phillips has provided more in other ways, generating energy, excitement and a positive atmosphere for his teammates, sharing the immense joy with which he plays the game and forging a deep bond with fans and the community. .

“From a simple assessment of talent and contributions and that part, it’s a tough choice,” Neander said. “But we certainly all know that the impact of ‘Philly’ extended beyond that.”

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Phillips’ biggest moment on the court came during the 2020 World Series game, followed by his airplane race across the outfield and the breathless network TV interview, when he uttered the phrase. which he turned into a popular t-shirt line: “Baseball is fun.”

He also made highlights with his acrobatic defense, his entertaining work on the mound as an occasional pitcher, and his humorous interviews. On Saturday, Phillips was in the spotlight as the team handed out Devil Rays basketball jerseys featuring his name and number, modeled after the one he wore on his 4th birthday.

He was also involved in one of the most poignant moments this season, hitting a home run in honor of Chloe Grimes, an 8-year-old girl battling cancer who threw the first pitch for the 12 game. April and considered him his favorite player. .

“It’s a game. It’s a source of entertainment. It should be enjoyed,” Neander said. “He makes it fun and always has. His approach to it, and how much he appreciates it, is special. It’s rare. And that’s a wonderful prospect to have around.

“So certainly everything he is, and the way he connects with the fans, with the community, with our organization, is special. And nothing that we will ever take for granted and cherish every moment of it.

By dropping Phillips, the Rays, who made two more small trades Monday before Tuesday’s 6 p.m. trade deadline, opted to keep Roman Quinn. The switch-hitter, signed during the All-Star break, hits .263 in nine games with an .807 OPS.

The Rays are hoping to enjoy Siri, who spent seven years in the Reds’ minor league system, honing his skills and maturing from what was politely called an exciting stage for a while, planning to give him the opportunity (probably from Tuesday night) being the everyday centre-back.

An added benefit of the deal is that Siri is under the team’s control for five more seasons and is not eligible for salary arbitration until 2025.

“The potential payoff of that is pretty big for us, not just in the contributions we can get from him,” Neander said, “but just kind of flexibility that will allow the rest of the roster and certainly financially in that respect.

“But it’s really just about talent, the chance to leverage meaningful benefits and someone we’re lucky to keep for a while if all goes well. And we think there is a chance that it is.

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Garland K. Long