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Rays trade Willy Adames to Brewers in four-player deal, per report

The Rays deal a key member of their AL pennant-winning core.

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Baltimore Orioles Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Rays have traded shortstop Willy Adames and right-handed pitcher Trevor Richards to the Milwaukee Brewers for relievers J.P. Feyereisen and Drew Rasmussen, as MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand and ESPN’s Jeff Passan first reported Friday afternoon:

Adames, 25, was a very highly regarded prospect — arguably the most hyped-up position player the Rays have brought up during their current run of success. It’s fair to say he hasn’t totally lived up to that hype as a major leaguer, though he did post a 4.0 bWAR season in 2019 and was a key member of the 2020 Rays team that reached the World Series, posting an OPS that was 27 points above league average with a 1.9 bWAR that ranked second on the team. But he’s been inconsistent at the plate, posting a .254/.320/.420 career slash line, and he’s posted the worst offensive numbers of his career through the early part of the 2021 season, hitting .197/.254/.371 with five homers through 142 plate appearances.

He’ll likely take over as the starting shortstop on a Brewers team that has long been searching for a player who could provide plus defense and even semi-consistent offense at the position. Luis Urías’ numbers are roughly equivalent to Adames’ this season — he’s hitting .205/.317/.359 through 140 PAs — but considering that he now has a .221/.316/.329 slash line over four major league seasons, you have to start wondering whether that’s just the player he is. He also has -3 defensive runs saved this season, so Adames should provide an upgrade on the defensive end.

Urias seemingly will become the second player who formerly was a “can’t miss” prospect to be displaced as the Brewers’ starting shortstop over the last year — he follows Orlando Arcia, who was dealt to the Braves in April after five-plus up-and-down seasons with Milwaukee.

While many fans across baseball hoped this deal would open up a spot on Tampa’s roster for shortstop Wander Franco, the consensus top prospect in the sport, the Rays will initially fill the void at shortstop by calling up Taylor Walls, the No. 7 prospect in their system. The 24-year-old Walls has been just a bit better in Triple-A this season than Franco — he’s hitting .327/.468/.490 compared to Franco’s .283/.333/.533 slash line — and by continuing to stall, the Rays have a better chance of preventing Franco from reaching “super two” status in arbitration (though that may not matter anyway, depending on how the union and the league address compensation in the next CBA). Utility player Joey Wendle will also see time at short, GM Erik Neander told media members Friday.

Richards, 28, is capable of starting or relieving and gives the Brewers some quality pitching depth. He has a 4.50 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP over six relief appearances this season and has a minor league option remaining.

The 28-year-old Feyereisen, a right-hander in his second big-league season, has had a rough two-week stretch, giving up seven earned runs over his last four outings, but he was arguably the best reliever in baseball for the first month, making 17 straight scoreless appearances to start the season. He could be a major bullpen weapon for the Rays, who are well-known for getting the most out of their relievers.

Rasmussen, 25, hasn’t had a ton of success since breaking into the big leagues last August, posting a 5.01 ERA over his first 27 major league relief appearances. But he throws an impressive high-90s fastball, has a high strikeout rate (46 in 32.1 major league innings) and has been good in May, as he’s unscored on over his last 6.1 innings.

Both pitchers have minor league options remaining, giving the Rays the flexibility they so often desire in their bullpen. Tampa will take advantage of that flexibility right away, optioning Rasmussen to Triple-A Durham.