Tampa Bay Rays: Part Ways with Wilson, Elects Free Agency

The necessity to create space on the Tampa Bay Rays 40-man roster by Friday’s deadline, catcher Bobby Wilson departs.

Needing roster space to add prospects to the 40-man roster in preparation for the Rule 5 Draft next month, the Tampa Bay Rays have parted ways with catcher Bobby Wilson. Wilson cleared outright waivers on Tuesday morning, and elected free agency instead of accepting a minor league assignment.

Not known for his bat, but for the way he handles the pitchers Wilson returned to the Rays for a second stint this past August days after he was designated for assignment by the Texas Rangers. In a corresponding move, the Rays optioned Curt Casali to Triple-A Durham.

Prior to joining the Tampa Bay Rays, Wilson also played for the Tigers and Rangers where he combined to hit .237 with seven home runs and 33 RBIs. In 28 games with the Rays, he hit .230 with four home runs with nine RBIs.

Signed to a minor league deal in December 2014, the Rays selected his contract from Triple-A Durham to open the 2015 season on the 25-man roster as Rene Rivera’s backup. However, after 25 games, the Rays designated him for assignment as he hit just .104 with four RBIs. The Texas Rangers would claim him off waivers two days later.

Wilson would re-sign with Texas for the 2016 season, however in a late trade at the end of March sent Wilson off to the Detroit Tigers where he would remain until May.  One month later, the Tigers would trade Wilson back to Texas until his release at the trade deadline after Texas acquired Jonathan Lucroy.

Wilson’s abilities behind the plate is what made him valuable where he drew praise from the pitchers, especially Chris Archer who lobbied for the Rays to keep him.

I’m not trying to knock anybody that we’ve had, but Bobby Wilson has made a difference,” Archer said. “And from my perspective I hope that they notice that and see that he brings some special qualities to this team.

“Even if he’s not necessarily your prototypical everyday guy, going forward you’ve got to look to have that man on the roster. Just because he’s a veteran, he knows how to handle himself. He’s worked with all the guys on the staff. We have some young guys who can learn a lot from him.”

Wilson told Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, “I’m a little disappointed in the way it worked out,” adding that “the door’s not closed” for a potential return if something doesn’t work out elsewhere.

“We think the world of who Bobby is and the leadership he provides, and that was a tough decision,” said senior VP Chaim Bloom. Bloom would add that the current trio of catchers on the 40-man roster (Curt Casali, Luke Maile and prospect Justin O’Conner) gives the Rays flexibility in terms of options to be sent back to the minors.

The Rays current 40-man roster stands at 36 and they need between five to seven more spots to add any Rule 5 eligible players for protection from the draft. The Tampa Bay Rays have until Friday to add their prospects; if they go unprotected, the Rays could theoretically lose several players.

How the Rule 5 Draft Works

-Players signed at age 19 or older and have played in four seasons

-Players signed at age 18 or younger and have played in five seasons

That would cover most college players drafted in 2013 or prior and high school / international players signed in 2012 or earlier.

If a player is taken in the Rule 5 draft, that player must spend the entire season in the majors, or be offered back to the team that had them initially. A Rule 5 player can be claimed off waivers during the season, but the rules are the same: that they must remain on the major league roster of the team that claims the player.

According to Andy Freed, Dave Wills and Neil Solondz of Rays Radio the Rays consider a couple of factors when deciding which players they will protect. First, how important is that player in the short and long term to the organization’s success. Second, if he is unprotected, how likely is that player to stick in the majors for the entire 2017 season.

Speculation on my part is that there are some current players on the 40-man roster in jeopardy of being removed through trades or being designated for assignment: Tim Beckham, Taylor Motter, Steve Geltz, Enny Romero and Ryan Brett.

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After problems with Beckham and Motter at the end of last season, there is a strong possibility that their days with the Rays organization are over. That became evident when neither player was recalled when the rosters expanded in September.

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