Rays sign 16-year-old lefty from Czech Republic

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It remains to be seen whether the Rays are interested in giving B.J. Upton a long-term contract, but Tampa Bay did sign Stepan Havlicek over the weekend.
Who is that, you ask? Well, he’s a 16-year-old left-hander who pitched for the Czech Republic’s junior national team and now he’s the first European player ever signed by the Rays. Here’s a report on Havlicek from the scout who found him, John Gilmore:

Stepan has a loose, quick arm with good follow through. His fastball has run and his curveball depth. For a young player, he has great control and goes right after hitters.

Havlicek is listed by the Rays as 6-foot-1 and 160 pounds, and he’s expected to begin his pro career this summer in the MLB-run Australia Academy. So for all you keeper-league fantasy owners out there, get him on your cheat sheets for 2015
If things go well for Havlicek he’ll become just the sixth Czech-born player in MLB history and the first since the 1960s, but believe it or not things will need to go really well for him to become the country’s best player. Elmer Valo went to high school in Pennsylvania and played most of his 20-year career for the Philadelphia A’s, but he was born in Ribnik, Czechoslovakia in 1921 and went on to collect 1,420 hits with a juicy .398 on-base percentage as a big leaguer from 1940-1961.

Rays trade Jake Odorizzi to Twins

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The Rays have traded right-hander Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, per team announcements on Saturday evening. The Twins will receive minor league shortstop Jermaine Palacios in the deal. Despite previous speculation, recently-DFA’d outfielder Corey Dickerson was not included in the trade.

With Odorizzi, the Twins finally have the front-end starter they’ve been seeking all winter. It’s a bargain deal as well, as the 27-year-old righty is under contract through 2019 and didn’t require the club to part with any of their top-shelf prospects in the trade. Odorizzi will be looking to stage a comeback in 2018 after a dismal performance with the Rays last year, during which he eked out a career-worst 4.14 ERA, 3.8 BB/9 and 8.0 SO/9 through 143 1/3 innings.

Palacios, 21, ranked no. 27 in the Twins’ system last season. He split his year between Single-A Cedar Rapids and High-A Fort Myers, raking a combined .296/.333/.454 with 13 home runs and 20 stolen bases in 539 plate appearances. He’s expected to continue developing at shortstop, though he’s also seen limited time at second and third base during his four-year career in the minors.