The Tampa Bay Rays made a flurry of roster moves on Wednesday with several impacting the 25-man roster. In a trade of minor-league outfielders, the Rays sent Kyle Hudson to the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for veteran minor leaguer Rich Thompson. The acquisition of Thompson set off a chain reaction including Brandon Guyer (shoulder) landing on the 15-day disabled list to create a 25-man spot for Thompson, and Jeff Niemann (leg) moving from the 15-day DL to the 60-day DL to clear space on the 40-man roster.
Thompson has played professional baseball for 13 years since being drafted in the sixth round of the 2000 amateur draft. He is accumulated 5,681 plate appearances in his career. Of those plate appearances, just one has come at the major-league level; a double-play groundball off former Devil Rays’ backup catcher Tim Laker in the ninth inning of a blowout during the 2004 season.
The 33-year-old’s return to the show is certainly a feel good story, but the Rays would not make a move just to make a random minor-leaguers dream come true. Without Desmond Jennings, and now Brandon Guyer, the Rays had a need for a legitimate fourth outfielder on the roster. Because of all the injuries, Ben Zobrist has all but abandoned his post at second base for a perch in right field, and Stephen Vogt is an outfielder by title more than anything else. The addition of Thompson gives Rays’ Manager Joe Maddon a true pinch-running option as well as some late-inning defensive flexibility.
Despite being 6-foot-3, Thompson does not generate much power from his 185-pound frame. What he lacks for in power, he makes up for with decent on-base skills (.355 career on-base percentage) and the ability to move quickly around the bases once aboard.
Splitting time with four organizations (Toronto, Pittsburg, Arizona, and Philadelphia), Thompson has stolen 442 bases in 534 attempts (82.7%). He stole 40 or more bases in seven seasons – including 48 last season which was tops in the International League. The left-hander is a career .280 hitter, who earns a decent amount of walks to go with the occasional strike out. Defensively, Thompson has covered all three outfield positions, but has primarily played center field. He has played defensively in 27 games for Lehigh Valley (Triple-A) this season with 21 of them in center.
The length of Thompson’s stay in Tampa Bay is to be determined. Even if Desmond Jennings returns in two weeks, Thompson skill-set likely holds more value on the bench than a player like Stephen Vogt. As Brandon Guyer, Evan Longoria, Brandon Allen, and Jose Lobaton start to return from injury, space on the 25-man roster will eventually become limited. At that point, Thompson may once again find himself on the outside looking in.
Until that happens, Thompson is a major-league outfielder for the Tampa Bay Rays. Good luck, Rich.