Rays’ Jalen Beeks, Christian Bethancourt, Josh Fleming claimed on waivers

ST. PETERSBURG — Three of the Rays placed on outright waivers last week were claimed by other teams Monday, and three became free agents.

Lefty pitcher Jalen Beeks was claimed by the Rockies, catcher Christian Bethancourt by the Guardians and lefty pitcher Josh Fleming by the Phillies. The Rays get a $50,000 fee from each claiming team and gain needed space on the 40-man roster.

Rookie infielder Tristan Gray, Triple-A reliever Cole Sulser and outfielder Raimel Tapia were unclaimed and are headed to free agency, with the potential to re-sign with the Rays on minor-league deals.

Baseball operations president Erik Neander said they had to make “some tough, difficult decisions” as they needed to clear room on the roster, as “somebody’s got to go.”

Some of the moves were to reinstate seven players from the 60-day injured list by Monday’s 5 p.m. deadline: pitchers Shane Baz, Garrett Cleavinger, Calvin Faucher, Shane McClanahan, Drew Rasmussen, Jeffrey Springs; and infielder Greg Jones.

And some were for the Nov. 14 deadline to add prospects to the 40-man roster to protect them from being taken in the Rule 5 draft.

The Rays added one on Monday, right-handed reliever Manuel Rodriguez, who was acquired in an Aug. 1 trade from the Cubs and would have otherwise become a minor-league free agent.

Two other minor-leaguers in similar positions were instead traded: Blake Hunt to Seattle for Tatem Levins, a 2022 eighth-round pick who played at Class A, in a swap of catchers; and right-hander Michael Mercado, a 2017 second-round pick, to the Phillies for Double-A right-hander Adam Leverett and cash.

With the roster at 39, including 11 eligible for arbitration, the Rays are likely to clear out a few more spots.

In parting ways with Bethancourt, who was acquired in July 2022 and started 89 games this past season, the Rays will be looking for a catcher to pair with Rene Pinto. Whether that is a veteran or a younger option, such as minor-leaguer Alex Jackson, will be a product of who is available.

“As we’re built right now, (Pinto) certainly is very well-positioned for one of the two spots,” Neander said from the GM meetings in Arizona. “If it ends up being the lead role, that is something that the receiving, the arm strength and the ability to impact the baseball, that’s something he could very well grow into. And if we find someone to pair with him that that deserves a little more of the work, great. If we don’t, we’ll be OK in that regard.”

Though the Rays are always looking to add pitching, they were willing to move on from Beeks and Fleming, who both had injury issues and inconsistent performances, spending part of 2023 at Triple A.

“They’ve been parts of some special accomplishments here the last several years,” Neander said. “But we’ve got several months here and likely we’ll have some fresh faces within our pitching group, and hopefully a few step forward to take on prominent roles.”

Rodriguez, 27, pitched in 34 games for the Cubs over 2021-22. He spent 2023 at Triple A, going 4-4, 3.99 with 14 saves in 50 games, striking out 80 over 56 1/3 innings.

“We were pretty excited to get him at the deadline,” Neander said. “He has a good arm. We believe that his best baseball is in front of him, and a good one to add to the mix.”

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