ST. PETERSBURG — In upgrading to a centerfielder they expect to provide more offense by acquiring Jose Siri from Houston, the Rays on Monday parted ways with Seminole native and fan favorite Brett Phillips to make room.
Siri, 27, is a right-handed hitter who is considered an elite defender but has struggled at the plate, hitting .178 with three homers, 10 RBIs and a .542 OPS in 48 games while splitting time between the Astros and their Triple- A team after making the opening-day roster.
The Rays got Siri as part of a three-way trade with Houston and Baltimore, giving up two pitching prospects. Right-hander Seth Johnson, who was ranked the Rays’ No. 6 prospect by mlb.com and is set to undergo Tommy John surgery, is headed to the Orioles. Right-hander Jayden Murray, who was unranked but having a solid season (8-2, 2.83) at Double-A Montgomery, was sent to the Astros.
Phillips, 28, is also an elite defender who has struggled offensively, hitting .147 with five homers, 14 RBIs and a .514 OPS in 75 games. He was designated for assignment, meaning he will be traded or exposed to waivers.
In a video posted on Twitter, the typically upbeat Phillips said, “It’s been an absolute pleasure and honor to play for my hometown team. (Being DFA’d) sucks, but we all know business is business. I’m going to dust myself off and keep moving forward. But I appreciate each and everyone of y’all for the support the last couple years. We’ve had a heck of a time.”
Phillips’ biggest moment on the field with the Rays was when he delivered the hit that led to the wild walkoff win over the Dodgers in Game 4 of the 2020 World Series, followed by his airplane run through the outfield and breathless network TV interview, when he uttered the phrase he turned into a T-shirt line: “Baseball is fun.”
But he is known for much more, such as the constant encouragement he provides teammates, his endless positivity and the joy with which he plays the game. He has made highlight reels with his acrobatic defense, entertaining work on the mound as an occasional pitcher, and his humorous interviews with him. Saturday, Phillips was in the spotlight as the team gave out Devil Rays basketball jerseys with his name and number, modeled after one he wore on his 4th birthday.
He also was involved in one of the season’s most poignant moments, hitting a home run in honor of Chloe Grimes, an 8-year-old girl battling cancer who had thrown out the first pitch for the April 12 game and considered him her favorite player .
In his video message, Phillips also asked fans to continue to support the Rays and grow the fan base, adding, “Until next time, and never forget, baseball is fun, baby. God Bless.”
Siri came up through the Reds’ system, playing seven seasons in the minors before being claimed twice off waivers — by the Mariners and Giants — before the 2020 season was disrupted by COVID-19. He signed with the Astros in December 2020 and spent most of 2021 at Triple-A before making his big-league debut in September.
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In 69 big-league games, Siri has hit .210 with seven homers, 19 RBIs and a .647 OPS while stealing nine bases.
In dropping Phillips, the Rays decided to keep switch-hitting Roman Quinn, who was signed during the All-Star break and is hitting .263 in nine games with an .807 OPS.
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George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism