Rays acquire C Hanigan, RHP Bell in 3-team trade

Catcher Ryan Hanigan and reliever Heath Bell are eager to try to

help the Tampa Bay Rays get back to the playoffs.

Hanigan was acquired from the Cincinnati Reds and Bell from the

Arizona Diamondbacks as part of a three-team trade Tuesday.

The deal was announced after Hanigan agreed to a $10.75 million,

three-year contract that runs through 2016 and includes a club

option for 2017.

Tampa Bay sent minor league pitcher Justin Choate and a player

to be named to the Diamondbacks. Arizona dealt left-hander David

Holmberg to Cincinnati.

Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew

Friedman called a Hanigan ”a tremendously talented defensive

catcher” who can also help the Rays offensively.

”He takes a lot of pride in what he does behind the plate and

we also like what he can do in the batter’s box, especially against

left-handed pitching,” Friedman said. ”He’s a guy we’ve had our

eye on for a while. and so when we had the opportunity to acquire

him, we were aggressive to do so.”

Hanigan, 33, is expected to become Tampa Bay’s primary catcher,

even though he and Friedman said they won’t head into spring

training with a preconceived notion. The trade was completed a day

after free agent catcher Jose Molina was re-signed to a $4.5

million, two-year contract.

”We’ll figure out matchups, we’ll figure out what makes the

most sense on any given night, but we feel like he makes our team

better,” Friedman said. ”Whether that’s 70 games, 80 games, 90

games, 100 games, I don’t know yet. We’ll figure that out as the

season gets underway.”

Bell will be a candidate to become the Rays’ closer – a job held

the past two seasons by Fernando Rodney, who is a free agent.

For the Diamondbacks, giving up the hard-throwing right-hander

was a cost-saving move. The deal saves the team $5.5 million of

Bell’s $9 million salary – and Miami is paying the other $3.5

million as part of the three-team trade in October last year.

Arizona general manager Kevin Towers gains flexibility in trying

bolster depth and plug holes.

”We’ve still got some bench pieces we need to put together, We

still have interest in bringing back Eric Chavez,” Towers said,

adding that the Diamondbacks also remain in the market for a

starting pitcher and perhaps a corner outfielder with power.

He’s also excited about the prospects headed for Arizona from

Tampa Bay, particularly the player to be named.

”Someone we value a lot as a prospect,” Towers said. ”That’s

not to take anything away from Mr. Choate, but I would say that

probably is the key player in the deal.”

Hanigan is a .262 career hitter who spent the past seven seasons

with the Reds. He batted .198 with two homers and 21 RBIs in 75

games in 2013, when he spent two stints on the disabled list – one

because of a strained left oblique muscle and the other a sprained

left wrist.

Friedman is confident the catcher is healthy and ”will return

to the really good player he’s always been.”

Hanigan is looking forward to getting to know the pitching staff

and play for manager Joe Maddon, who’s led the Rays to the playoffs

four of the past six seasons.

”The numbers speak for themselves in terms of the

competitiveness of the team year after year. It’s a great thing

they have going,” Hanigan said.

”Everybody I’ve talked to has great things to say about Joe and

the organization, the atmosphere they create to compete,” Hanigan

added. ”I’m just looking forward to helping the team out. They’ve

got a lot of young arms. They’ve got a lot of good pitching. I’m

excited to get to know these guys.”

Bell, 36, has 168 saves in 10 seasons with the New York Mets,

San Diego, Miami and the Diamondbacks. He led the majors with 132

saves for the Padres from 2009-11 and his 166 saves over the past

five seasons are third the majors after Jonathan Papelbon’s 173 and

Mariano Rivera’s 170.

Bell was 5-2 with a 4.11 ERA with 15 saves in 69 appearances for

the Diamondbacks last season. He will have an opportuinity to win

the closer’s job in Tampa Bay, although Friedman stressed the Rays

didn’t necessarily acquire him with that in mind.

”I think I have a shot of winning that job, the ninth-inning

job, but I see my role as being to come in to spirng training and

show them what I can do,” Bell said.

”They always say I don’t run from run from anybody, I don’t

back down from anybody. I go right after everybody,” the reliever

added. ”I kind of feel like I just want to help the team out the

best way I can.”

The Reds traded a catcher they no longer needed for a

left-handed pitching prospect.

Devin Mesoraco, their first-round draft pick in 2007, emerged as

an everyday catcher last season when Hanigan was hurt. Mesoraco

played in a career-high 103 games, batting .238 with nine homers

and 42 RBIs. Hanigan was on the disabled list twice and batted only

.198 with two homers and 21 RBIs in 75 games.

Hanigan caught both of Homer Bailey’s no-hitters in the last two

seasons. The 33-year-old became expendable when the Reds decided

after the season that they would make Mesoraco the starter. They

signed catcher Brayan Pena to a two-year deal for $2,275,000,

giving them a backup for Mesoraco.

”Devin Mesoraco will have the opportunity to become a

front-line catcher for us,” general manager Walt Jocketty said.

”Holmberg provides us with the quality pitching depth that every

team needs.”

The 22-year-old lefty was a Southern League All-Star last

season. He went 5-8 with a 2.75 ERA for Double-A Mobile, striking

out 116 in 157 1-3 innings. He made his big league debut for

Arizona against San Diego on Aug. 27.

Holmberg was drafted by the White Sox in the second round in

2009 and was traded to Arizona with right-hander Daniel Hudson in

the deal for right-hander Edwin Jackson on July 30, 2010.

AP Baseball Writer Joe Kay in Cincinnati and AP Sports Writer

Bob Baum in Phoenix contributed to this report.