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For the second time in franchise history, the Tampa Bay Rays are American League champions. They defeated the Astros in seven games in the American League Championship Series and will face the Dodgers in the World Series. The Rays won the American League pennant back in 2008. They are still searching for their first championship.

Like every team, the Rays were assembled through all sorts of different methods. No team is built exclusively through the draft, or trades, or free agency. It's not possible. Successful teams acquire talent through every available avenue. Here is how the Rays acquired their 28-man postseason active roster:

  • Trades: 15
  • Draft: 5
  • MLB free agency: 3
  • International free agency: 3
  • Other: 2

The Rays have leaned heavily on trades. In fact, they've made some of the most lopsided trades in recent memory. They've also done well in the draft, particularly outside the first round, and made several shrewd free agent signings, which are really the only free agent signings they can afford. Tampa had the third-lowest prorated payroll at $28.3 million this season.

Let's take a deeper look at how the Rays built the roster that carried them to the 2020 World Series.

The draft

In a perfect world teams would draft and develop their entire 26-man roster (or 28-man roster this year) and never spend money on free agents or give up players in trades. That world does not exist. Not even close. The draft remains the best (and most cost effective) way to acquire talent and the Rays have several impact late rounders on their roster. 

Josh Fleming
TB • SP • 61
Draft year2017
Draft pickR5 (No. 139 overall)
Signing bonus$272,500
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As a junior at Webster University, Josh Fleming led Division III in ERA (0.67) and WHIP (0.71) in 2017. The Rays loved his pitchability and grabbed him with their fifth-round pick. Fleming pitched very well in the minors -- the organization named him Double-A MVP in 2019 -- and made his debut this summer when Yonny Chirinos went down with an injury. Fleming won't blow anyone away, but he has three good pitches and a plan, and that'll take you far with a team like the Rays. The expected return on a fifth-round pick is pretty small, so Fleming already qualifies as a big success (2.78 ERA in 32 1/3 innings in 2020).

Brandon Lowe
TB • 2B • 8
Draft year2015
Draft pickR3 (No. 187 overall)
Signing bonus$697,500
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In hindsight, it's a surprise Brandon Lowe was drafted as low as he was. He mashed at Maryland (.338/.448/.509), showed positional versatility and great plate discipline, and was young for his draft class. Lowe checked all the boxes. Instead, questions about his ability to handle premium velocity and injuries (torn ACL as a freshman, broken leg as a junior) dropped him into Tampa's lap in the third round. Lowe punished minor-league pitching, reached the big leagues three years after being drafted, and is now a centerpiece for a World Series offense. He'll get MVP votes this season and the Rays wisely signed him to a six-year extension worth $24 million in March 2019.

Kevin Kiermaier
TB • CF • 39
Draft year2010
Draft pickR31 (No. 941 overall)
Signing bonus$75,000
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A true player development success story. Kevin Kiermaier was an overlooked prospect at his Illinois junior college, and he was expected to transfer to Purdue for his junior year. Rather than join the Boilermakers, he somewhat surprisingly signed with the Rays for a pittance as their 31st-round pick in 2010. Kiermaier was seen as a possible corner outfielder at the time, but he quickly showed his defense was Gold Glove caliber in center as a pro, and he'll crush mistakes as well. He is the team's longest-tenured player and also the elder statesman of the offense at age 30. Needless to say, getting 27.2 WAR (and counting!) from a 31st-round pick is a massive, massive draft success.

Shane McClanahan
TB • RP • 62
Draft year2018
Draft pickR1S (No. 31 overall)
Signing Bonus$2.2301 million
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Going into the 2018 draft season, Shane McClanahan was viewed as a candidate to go No. 1 overall, but an inconsistent spring at South Florida (3.42 ERA and 48 walks in 76 1/3 innings) caused him to the fall to the Rays and the No. 31 pick, the first pick of the supplemental first round. McClanahan's lightning quick arm helped him climb three minor-league levels in 2019, and earlier this month he became the first pitcher in baseball history to make his MLB debut in the postseason. McClanahan could still use a little more minor-league seasoning, but the fact he is on the team's postseason roster tells you how much the Rays believe in the stuff. The draft pick the Rays used to select McClanahan was the compensation pick they received for losing Alex Cobb to free agency.

Blake Snell
TB • SP • 4
Draft year2011
Draft roundR1S (No. 52 overall)
Signing bonus$684,000
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The Rays selected Shane McClanahan with the compensation pick for losing Alex Cobb to free agency. They selected Blake Snell with the compensation pick for losing Brad Hawpe to free agency, if you can believe that. That was back in the old Elias Type-A and Type-B free agent compensation days, long before the qualifying offer was a thing. Snell was underscouted a bit as an amateur because he was home-schooled until his senior year at his Washington high school, and he was classic projectable prep pitcher. Nearly a decade later, including parts of six seasons in the minors, Snell is a Cy Young winner and the ace of a World Series team.

Trades

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The Rays added Austin Meadows and Tyler Glasnow in one of the most lopsided trades ever. Getty Images

I'm not sure any team has made as many wildly successful trades as the Rays the last five years or so. They aren't batting 1.000 -- giving up German Marquez to get Corey Dickerson and then flipping Dickerson for nothing in particular stings -- but when they hit, they hit huge. Several significant trades have shaped their postseason roster and propelled them to the World Series.

Willy Adames
TB • SS • 1
Acquired fromTigers
Trade dateJuly 31, 2014
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The Tigers gave Willy Adames a $420,000 signing bonus as an amateur out of the Dominican Republic in 2012 -- it was the largest international signing bonus they handed out that year -- and only 138 minor-league games later, Detroit sent him to the Rays in the David Price three-team trade with the Mariners. The full trade:

Adames was 18 and in Low Class-A at the time. He was a fixture on top-100 prospect lists beginning the next season -- Baseball America ranked him as the 10th-best prospect in the game in 2017 -- and he made his MLB debut in 2018. The Rays waited a long time for him to develop, which was to be expected given his age at the time of the trade, but they have been rewarded handsomely. Adames is still only 25, he's an above-average shortstop, and he might be Tampa's best all-around player.

Nick Anderson
TB • RP • 70
Acquired fromMarlins
Trade dateJuly 31, 2019
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Less than two years ago Nick Anderson was an unknown. Now he's arguably the best reliever in baseball. He went undrafted out of his Minnesota high school in 2009, declined to sign with the Brewers as their 32nd round pick as a senior out of NAIA Mayville State in 2012, then spent three seasons in independent ball. The Twins signed him in Aug. 2015 and he was lights out in their system, pitching to a 2.25 ERA with 232 strikeouts in 183 2/3 relief innings through 2018.

Despite that, Minnesota didn't see enough to put Anderson on their 40-man roster and protect him from the Rule 5 Draft, so they traded him to the Marlins for light-hitting infield prospect Brian Schales after the 2018 season. Anderson made Miami's Opening Day roster in 2019 and was impressive, so much so that the Rays gave up a top-100 prospect (Jesus Sanchez) to get him at the trade deadline. The full trade: Anderson and Trevor Richards for Sanchez and Ryne Stanek. From undrafted to independent ball to a high-leverage reliever for a World Series team. What a ride.

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Randy Arozarena
LF •
Acquired fromCardinals
Trade dateJan. 9, 2020

The breakout star of the postseason originally signed with the Cardinals in July 2016 after defecting from Cuba and playing in the Mexican League. Arozarena was a touted prospect -- he received a $1.25 million signing bonus -- and he zoomed up the minor-league ladder, making his MLB debut last year. St. Louis determined the team had no room in its outfield for him though, so Arozarena was sent to the Rays along with Jose Martinez last offseason. The Cardinals received top-100 prospect Matthew Liberatore, infield prospect Edgardo Rodriguez, and a competitive balance round draft pick in the trade. Martinez didn't work out -- he was dealt to the Cubs at the trade deadline -- but Arozarena sure has. He'll be a fixture in the Tampa Bay outfield for years to come.

Ji-Man Choi
TB • 1B • 26
Acquired fromBrewers
Trade dateJune 10, 2018
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It has taken a little longer than expected but Ji-Man Choi is finally a big-league regular. He originally signed with the Mariners out of South Korea back in 2009 -- Choi was a catcher in those days -- then he moved on to the Orioles as a minor-league free agent in 2015. The Angels gave him a look as a Rule 5 Draft pick in 2016, the Yankees tried him out in 2017, the Brewers gave him a shot in 2018, then the Rays finally got their hands on him. Brad Miller went to Milwaukee in the one-for-one trade. Choi has been worth 3.3 WAR in 218 games with Tampa. He was worth minus-0.5 WAR in 72 games with the Angels, Yankees, and Brewers.

Yandy Diaz
TB • 3B • 2
Acquired fromCleveland
Trade dateDec. 13, 2018
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It took three tries, but Yandy Diaz finally defected from Cuba in 2013, and soon thereafter he signed with Cleveland. They gave him a $300,000 bonus. Yandy put up big numbers against minor-league pitching the next few years -- he is a career .319/.415/.432 hitter in 282 Triple-A games -- but his natural power rarely showed up in games because he hit the ball on the ground so often. The Rays loved his plate discipline and hard contact though, so they brought him in as part of a three-team trade. The details:

Cleveland received a middle-of-the-lineup bat in Santana, the Mariners unloaded money and got a draft pick, and the Rays landed Diaz, who figured out how to elevate the ball in 2019. He hit 14 homers in 79 games. Yandy was hampered by injuries again in 2020, and the power didn't really show up, but a .307 batting average with more walks (23) than strikeouts (17) will always play.

Peter Fairbanks
TB • RP • 29
Acquired fromRangers
Trade dateJuly 13, 2019
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Peter Fairbanks returned from his second Tommy John surgery last season -- he also had his elbow rebuilt as a high school junior in 2011 -- and showed a huge uptick in velocity that was as much the result of a role change (he moved into the bullpen) as it was his new elbow ligament. The Rays saw enough to send Nick Solak, a pretty good big-league player, to the Rangers for Fairbanks last summer. They believed in the velocity and thought the former ninth-round pick could have sustainable success in his new role. Fairbanks is now a trusted late-inning reliever with Tampa.

Tyler Glasnow
TB • SP • 20
Acquired fromPirates
Trade dateJuly 31, 2018
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When it's all said and done, this might go down as one of the most lopsided trades in baseball history. It is already among the most lopsided trades of this century. The Pirates, looking to replace Gerrit Cole atop the rotation, thought Chris Archer was fixable, and sent the Rays a monster package to get Archer and his team-friendly contract. The full trade:

The player to be named turned into Shane Baz, the No. 12 overall pick in the 2017 draft and currently a top-100 prospect. Glasnow was a former top-100 prospect himself, but control issues and general inconsistency prevented him from carving out a full-time role with the Pirates. The Rays fixed him almost immediately and now Glasnow is among the game's best and hardest-throwing starters. Archer for Glasnow straight up would've been a huge win for the Rays. Getting Baz and Meadows as well is just rubbing it in.

Archer, by the way, has a 4.92 ERA in 33 career starts with Pittsburgh. He missed 2020 following surgery to treat thoracic outlet syndrome and the Pirates are unlikely to exercise his $11 million club option for 2021. Just a disastrous trade that has set the Pirates back years. 

Manuel Margot
TB • LF • 13
Acquired fromPadres
Trade dateFeb. 8, 2020
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Once upon a time Manuel Margot was the headliner in the trade that sent Craig Kimbrel from the Padres to the Red Sox. He was a regular on top-100 prospects lists from 2015-17, though his three years with San Diego were solid more than spectacular. The Rays craved his speed, defense, and righty bat with sneaky pop, so they acquired him right before spring training earlier this year. Margot and minor-league catcher-slash-outfielder Logan Driscoll for Emilio Pagan, who was Tampa's top reliever a year ago. Margot's regular season was fine, not great, but he's been a difference-maker in the postseason, hitting a home run in all three rounds after hitting one homer all regular season.

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Austin Meadows
LF •
Acquired fromPirates
Trade dateJuly 31, 2018

As noted earlier, the Chris Archer trade has been already been a massive win for the Rays. Tyler Glasnow alone would have made it a great trade. Adding Austin Meadows, a .273/.349/.517 hitter with 38 homers in 184 games with Tampa, is gravy. Meadows was the No. 9 overall pick in the 2013 and he remained a top prospect throughout the minors despite battling injuries along the way. The Pirates gave him a 49-game look in 2018 and he was quite good (.292/.327/.468), but they really wanted Archer, and were willing to give Meadows up. And Glasnow. And Shane Baz too. Woof. Pittsburgh's enormous loss is Tampa's enormous gain.

Michael Perez
TB • C • 7
Acquired fromDiamondbacks
Trade dateJuly 25, 2018
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It was a minor trade that was easy to overlook. The Rays sent righty swingman Matt Andriese to the Diamondbacks for Michael Perez and minor league righty Brian Shaffer at the 2018 trade deadline. Andriese didn't fit into their plans and Perez had the makings of a solid backup catcher thanks to his defense, pitch-framing, and left-handed bat. He bounced between Triple-A and MLB in 2018 and 2019 before serving as Tampa's regular backup catcher in 2020. Perez hasn't been great by any means (career .221/.286/.314 hitter), but the defense makes him worth a roster spot.

Hunter Renfroe
TB • RF • 11
Acquired fromPadres
Trade dateDec. 6, 2019
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The 13th overall pick in the 2013 draft, Hunter Renfroe never lived up to his lofty prospect status with the Padres, settling in as a solid regular more than a star. The Rays were desperate for righty pop over the winter -- they hit an underwhelming .255/.326/.422 against lefties in 2019 -- and they also wanted to clear salary, so they flipped Tommy Pham to San Diego for Renfroe. The full trade:

Pham's season was sabotaged by a hand injury but Cronenworth might be the Rookie of the Year, so we should probably consider the Padres the winner of this trade seeing how Renfroe hit .156/.252/.393 in 2020, and has mostly ridden the bench in October. Edwards is a top-100 prospect though, so we are a long way from closing the book on this trade. This was the first of two Padres-Rays trades last offseason. They got together for the Manuel Margot-Emilio Pagan trade a few weeks later.

Aaron Slegers
TB • RP • 57
Acquired fromPirates
Trade dateMarch 30, 2019
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Technically, Aaron Slegers rejoined the Rays as a free agent last year, but because he originally joined the organization in a trade, we'll slot him in here. Slegers first joined Tampa in a cash trade with the Pirates at the end of spring training last year, spent most of the season in Triple-A, then elected free agency after being dropped from the 40-man roster last September. The Rays quickly re-signed Slegers to a minor-league contract, however, and he stepped in to help the bullpen after Tampa was hit by a wave of injuries this summer. Getting 29 innings with a 3.41 ERA from a guy acquired in a cash trade is a nifty little move.

Joey Wendle
TB • 3B • 18
Acquired fromAthletics
Trade dateDec. 11, 2017
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The Athletics don't miss often, but they missed on Joey Wendle, who never did get an extended look with Oakland despite good defense, positional versatility, and a pesky lefty bat. He hit .266/.305/.399 in 36 games with the Athletics -- Oakland originally got Wendle from Cleveland in the Brandon Moss trade -- before being designated for assignment in Dec. 2017. The move cleared a 40-man roster spot for Yusmeiro Petit. The Rays sent catcher prospect Jonah Heim to the A's in a one-for-one trade a few days later. Wendle has since emerged as a quality role player -- he's a great "10th man," so to speak -- who occasionally contributes more than that. Heim, it should be noted, was on Oakland's postseason roster, so both teams got something out of this trade.

Ryan Yarbrough
TB • SP • 48
Acquired fromMariners
Trade dateJan. 11, 2017
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The Mariners gave Ryan Yarbrough a $40,000 bonus out of Old Dominion as their fourth-round pick in 2014. He steadily climbed the minor-league ladder and had a great 2016 season at Double-A (2.95 ERA in 128 1/3 innings), after which the Rays made him an offseason target. Tampa sent Drew Smyly to the Mariners for Yarbrough, Mallex Smith, and infield prospect Carlos Vargas that winter. Yarbrough's been a steady back-end starter in the three seasons since, often working as a bulk innings reliever behind an opener. Thanks to Smyly, Yarbrough is part of the David Price trade tree along with Willy Adames. Keep that in mind.

Mike Zunino
TB • C • 10
Acquired fromMariners
Trade dateNov. 8, 2018
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No two teams have made more trades with each other the last four years than the Mariners and Rays. They've made eight -- eight! -- trades since 2017, plus one more in 2016 and two more in 2015 for good measure. When you have a good working relationship with another team, why not lean into it? Mike Zunino was the No. 3 overall pick in 2012 and Seattle rushed him to the big leagues the next season, which badly impacted his development. After parts of six underwhelming seasons with the Mariners, he was sent to the Rays in a five-player trade: Zunino, Guillermo Heredia, and lefty pitching prospect Michael Plassmeyer for Mallex Smith and Jake Fraley. Zunino has been worse with the Rays than he was with the Mariners (49 OPS+ vs. 89 OPS+), though he has hit some big homers this postseason.

Because Smith was involved in this trade, we can loop it into the David Price trade trade. Willy Adames, Ryan Yarbrough, and Zunino are all with Tampa as a result of the Price deal. It always hurts when you trade a Cy Young winner and a franchise icon, but that's a pretty darn good return for the Rays. They turned a year-and-a-half of Price into an above-average shortstop and two good role players.

Free-agent signings

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Charlie Morton signed the largest free agent contract in Rays history. Getty Images

Generally speaking, free agency is the least efficient way to acquire talent in terms of cost vs. production, but even the Rays will dip their toes into the free agent pool on occasion. One significant signing and several smaller signings can be found on their postseason roster.

John Curtiss
TB • RP • 84
Date signedFeb. 3, 2020
ContractMinor-league deal
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John Curtiss was very nearly out of baseball last offseason. He spent most of last season in the minors with the Angels and Phillies, where he allowed 29 runs in 33 2/3 innings. That led to a quiet offseason. "I had one minor-league contract (offer) in eight months. Literally nobody wanted me," Curtiss told reporters, including USA Today's Bob Nightengale, during the ALCS. That offer came from the Rays, who have since been rewarded with a 1.80 ERA in 25 innings. Curtiss was summoned when the team was hit hard by injuries earlier this year and he's forced his way into the late-inning mix. As smart as they are -- and they're very smart -- give the Rays a truth serum and I bet they would admit they did not expect Curtiss to be this good.

Aaron Loup
TB • RP • 15
Date signedFeb. 11, 2020
ContractMinor-league deal
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In the three-batter minimum era, Aaron Loup is a fish out of water given his classic left-on-left matchup profile, but he and the Rays have made it work, and he posted a 2.52 ERA in 25 innings during the regular season. Lefties went 7 for 33 (.212) with eight strikeouts against Loup during the regular season. Oddly enough, righties only went 10 for 52 (.192) with 14 strikeouts against him. Huh. Injuries decimated Tampa's bullpen at midseason and Loup was among those to step in and not just hold down the fort, but actually improve upon what the Rays had in their Opening Day bullpen.

Charlie Morton
TB • SP • 50
Date signedDec. 21, 2018
Contract2 years, $30 million
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The largest free agent contract in Rays history. For real. Charlie Morton was contemplating retirement two years ago -- he's already said he expects his current contract to be his last -- but he lives nearby and the Rays offered an opportunity to win, so he signed on for two years. It's worked out wonderfully for both sides. Morton finished third in the Cy Young voting last season and might be the best No. 3 starter in baseball. He's certainly the best No. 3 starter among the four LCS teams. The Rays, it should be noted, hold a $15 million club option for Morton next season. They could bring him back next year, as long as he wants to continue pitching.

International free agency

There are two ways to acquire amateur talent: the draft and international free agency. The Rays scout Latin America very well and have turned out quality players to use on their roster and as trade chips for years now, and the fruit of that labor is front and center on the 2020 team.

Jose Alvarado
TB • RP • 46
Date signedMarch 12, 2012
Signing bonus$50,000
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You may not be able to tell by looking at him now, but Jose Alvarado was a skinny little lefty when the Rays signed him as a 16-year-old out of Venezuela in 2012. He filled out his frame in pro ball and suddenly his upper-80s fastball became an upper-90s fastball. Shoulder trouble sabotaged Alvarado's 2020 season -- he was limited to nine innings during the regular season -- but he has been a fixture in the late innings since 2017. The small bonus tells you Alvarado was not considered a significant prospect as an amateur. Credit to him for getting where he is today, and credit to the Rays for helping him get there.

Diego Castillo
TB • RP • 63
Date signedMarch 5, 2014
Signing bonus$64,000
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In international free agency, a 20-year-old player is considered ancient. The best players sign at 16 or 17, maybe sometimes 18, but if you're still out there at age 20, chances are you aren't much of a prospect. The Rays signed Castillo out of the Dominican Republic as a 20-year-old in 2014 and it took him four years to get to the big leagues, even as a reliever, but he's been a great high-leverage option since debuting in 2018. He's even opened at times, and he's gotten some of the biggest out of the postseason the last few weeks.

Yoshitomo Tsutsugo
TB • LF • 25
Date signedDec. 16, 2019
Contract2 years, $12 million
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Unlike Jose Alvarado and Diego Castillo, Yoshitomo Tsutsugo was not an amateur when he signed with the Rays. He played 10 seasons with the Yokohama BayStars in Japan, hit .285/.382/.528 overall, and was a five-time All-Star. That includes a 45-homer season in 2016 and a 38-homer season in 2018. Yokohama posted Tsutsugo for MLB teams last offseason and the Rays landed him with a sensible two-year contract (they also had to pay a $2.4 million posting fee to the BayStars). Tsutsugo struggled in his first season with Tampa (.197/.314/.395) but will put a mistake in the seats (eight home runs).

Rule 5 Draft

The Rule 5 Draft exists to prevent teams from hoarding prospects. After a certain number of years in the minors (three for college draftees and four for high schoolers and international free agents, generally speaking), players have to be added to the 40-man roster or be exposed to the Rule 5 Draft. Players selected in the Rule 5 Draft must remain on their new team's active MLB roster all season, or be placed on waivers and offered back to their original club. Most Rule 5 Draft picks wind up back with their former team, though some do stick and become middle relievers or bench guys. Every once in a while a team strikes gold in the Rule 5 Draft, like the Royals with Brad Keller or the Marlins with Dan Uggla. The Rays have a Rule 5 Draft pick on their postseason roster.

Ryan Thompson
TB • RP • 81
Selected fromAstros
Date pickedDec. 13, 2018
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There are different phases of the Rule 5 Draft and Ryan Thompson was not even selected in the major-league phase. He was selected in the minor-league phase. Depending on the player's experience level, he must be placed on the Triple-A, Double-A, or Single-A reserve list in the offseason, and players who are not on the appropriate reserved list are exposed to the minor-league Rule 5 Draft. Players selected in the minor-league phase do not go on the 40-man roster and are gone. You're not required to keep them on the roster all year. They're your player with no strings attached.

The Rays grabbed Thompson from the Astros in the minor-league phase of the 2018 Rule 5 Draft even though he missed the entire season with injury. He rehabbed in 2019, getting into 16 minor-league games, then made the Opening Day roster in 2020. Thompson emerged as a trusted bullpen weapon thanks to a funky sidewinding delivery that eats up right-handed hitters. Very, very few minor-league Rule 5 Draft picks reach the big leagues, let alone carve out a role and become an important member of the team. Thompson is one of the exceptions. (Alexi Ogando is probably the most successful minor-league Rule 5 Draft pick.)

Undrafted free agent

Eligible players not selected in the annual amateur draft are free to sign with any team as an undrafted free agent, though bonus caps limit their earning potential, and just about every player with a modicum of prospect stock is drafted at some point. Kirby Yates and Darren O'Day are the most notable undrafted free agents in the big leagues right now. The Rays have one undrafted player -- a postseason hero -- on their roster.

Mike Brosseau
TB • 1B • 43
Date signedJune 14, 2016
Signing bonus$1,000
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A four-year starter at Oakland University, where he hit .308/.389/.453 overall, Mike Brosseau signed with the Rays after going undrafted in 2016. There were 1,216 players drafted that year, and Brosseau was not one of them. Tampa gave him a $1,000 bonus and into the farm system he went. Brosseau hit at every level -- he's a career .297/.377/.478 hitter in the minors -- and was in the big leagues three years after being drafted. He's settled in as a versatile lefty masher, most notably hitting what proved to be the ALDS-clinching home run against the Yankees and Aroldis Chapman.

Other notables

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Wander Franco is the No. 1 prospect in baseball. Getty Images

Those 28 players above made up the Rays' active roster for the ALCS. Teams are carrying a 12-man taxi squad in the postseason as well, and those 12 players are the only players who can be added to the active roster in October. Your 40-man postseason pool is your 40-man postseason pool. No exceptions. Oliver Drake elected free agency after being designated for assignment earlier this week, so Tampa is down to an 11-man taxi squad. Here's how they acquired those 11 players.

Vidal Brujan
TB • 2B •
Date signedOct. 17, 2014
Signing bonus$15,000
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One of the top prospects in the game's best farm system, Vidal Brujan received a tiny bonus when he turned pro out of the Dominican Republic. He's a prolific basestealer with bat-to-ball skills from both sides of the plate, and he's a solid defender at second base as well. Brujan has never played in Triple-A, nevermind MLB, but the Rays believe in his talent so much that they included him in their postseason player pool.

Wander Franco
TB • SS •
Date signedJuly 2, 2017
Signing bonus$3.825 million
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The consensus No. 1 prospect in the game. As his signing bonus suggests, Wander Franco has been considered a future star since his days as an amateur in the Dominican Republic. He's still only 19, and he's never played above High Class-A, but the Rays believe in him so much that they're carrying him in their postseason player pool. Franco hit .327/.398/.487 with way more walks (56) than strikeouts (35) as one of the youngest players in his league last year. He's a special, special prospect.

Sean Gilmartin
TB • RP • 85
Date signedFeb. 23, 2020
ContractMinor-league deal
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A well-traveled left-hander, Sean Gilmartin has managed to appear in MLB every season since 2015, yet he's never thrown more than 60 big-league innings in a season, and only once from 2016-20 did he throw more than 18 innings in a season (27 with the 2018 Orioles). Tampa signed Gilmartin to a minor-league contract earlier this year and he allowed four runs in 4 1/3 regular season innings.

Ronaldo Hernandez
TB • C •
Date signedAug. 9, 2014
Signing bonus$225,000
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Ronaldo Hernandez is Tampa's fourth catcher, for all intents and purposes. The 22-year-old Colombian is a good prospect, but he's never played a game above High Class-A and he had a .299 on-base percentage at that level last season. Hernandez can really throw and he has some power. He was included in the available player pool because you don't want to run out of catchers, and because he's familiar with many of the team's pitchers.

Brent Honeywell
TB • SP •
Draft year2014
Draft pickRCBB (No. 72 overall)
Signing bonus$800,000
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Injuries have derailed Brent Honeywell Jr.'s career the last few seasons. He has not thrown a pitch in an official game since 2017 -- the pandemic played some part in that this year -- because of Tommy John surgery and an elbow fracture, but he was healthy enough to pitch at the alternate site some this season, and the fact he was included in the postseason player pool is a good sign. Honeywell wouldn't be with the team if he weren't healthy. The 2014 competitive balance round B draft pick turns 26 in March.

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Nate Lowe
1B •
Draft year2016
Draft roundR13 (No. 390 overall)
Signing bonus$100,000

I'm not sure what more Nate Lowe has to do to get a regular lineup spot. He hammered Triple-A last year and he's slugged 11 home runs in 71 big-league games. The former 13th-round pick has developed better than the Rays could've possibly hoped. For now, he's a tremendous piece of depth who could step in at first base or designated hitter should Tampa lose someone to injury in the World Series.

Brian O'Grady
TB • LF • 31
Acquired fromReds
Trade dateNov. 27, 2019
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A former eighth-round pick who received a cup of coffee with the Reds in 2019, Brian O'Grady joined the Rays in a cash trade last offseason. Tampa designated Jesus Aguilar for assignment to clear a 40-man roster spot and he was later claimed off waivers by the Marlins. O'Grady, 28, is a versatile depth player who went 2 for 5 with the Rays this summer. He spent most of the year at the alternate site.

Brett Phillips
TB • RF • 14
Acquired fromRoyals
Trade dateAug. 27, 2020
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In parts of four MLB seasons Brett Phillips have traveled from the Brewers to the Royals (Mike Moustakas trade) and now to the Rays. Infield prospect Lucius Fox, who originally came over in the Evan Longoria trade with the Giants, was sent to Kansas City for Phillips earlier this summer. Phillips is a defensive wiz who hasn't hit much in his career. He was on Tampa's Wild Card Series and ALDS rosters, but not the ALCS roster.

Trevor Richards
TB • RP • 34
Acquired fromMarlins
Trade dateJuly 31, 2019
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Nick Anderson is clearly the prize of last summer's trade with the Marlins, though Trevor Richards is a fine depth arm as well. Like Anderson, he spent time in independent leagues before getting an opportunity with Miami. Richards made 25 starts with the Marlins in 2018 and has spent the last two seasons as a league average-ish up and down swingman type. He was on the ALDS active roster but not the Wild Card Series or ALCS rosters.

Ryan Sherriff
TB • RP • 71
Date signedNov. 26, 2018
ContractMinor-league deal
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A former 28th-round pick, Ryan Sherriff made his MLB debut with the Cardinals in 2017, then had Tommy John surgery in June 2018. St. Louis released him after the season, the Rays gave him a minor-league contract, and waited as he rehabbed in 2019. Sherriff returned to the big leagues this summer thanks to Tampa's pitching injuries. He threw 9 2/3 scoreless innings.

Kevan Smith
TB • C • 44
Date signedJan. 13, 2020
ContractMinor-league deal
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Hernandez is the No. 4 catcher and Kevan Smith, a big league journeyman, is the No. 3 catcher. The Rays gave the 32-year-old a minor-league contract last offseason and he got into 17 games this season, hitting .258/.378/.452 with one home run. As far as depth catchers on minor-league contracts go, that's as good as it gets.