Rays’ surge continues, grab a bit of history in the process

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With a 5-0 shutout win over the Yankees tonight, the Rays at long last returned to .500 at 61-61. As the Rays’ Twitter notes, they have become the fourth team in baseball history to reach .500 after falling at least 18 games below .500, joining the 1899 Louisville Colonels, the 2004 Devil Rays, and the 2006 Marlins.

The Rays fell 18 games below .500 on June 10 following a loss to the Cardinals. Since then, the Rays have won 37 of 56 games — a .661 winning percentage. They have fallen as far back as 15 games in the division, but are now nine games back after the Orioles lost to the Indians in 11 innings.

Their surge is interesting considering they traded away someone who very well might have been their most crucial piece to a playoff run in David Price. The Rays sent Price to the Tigers as part of a three-team trade that also involved the Mariners at the trade deadline. In return for Price, the Rays got lefty pitcher Drew Smyly, infielder Nick Franklin, and minor league infielder Willy Adames.

Phillies, Red Sox interested in Carlos Santana

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The Phillies and Red Sox appear intent on pursuing free agent first baseman Carlos Santana, MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reports. Santana rejected a one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer from the Indians on Thursday and is expected to draw widespread interest on the market this winter. The Mets, Mariners, Angels and Indians could make a play for the infielder, though no serious offers have been made this early in the offseason.

Santana, 31, is coming off of a seven-year track with the Indians. He batted .259/.363/.455 with 23 home runs and 3.0 fWAR last season, making 2017 the fourth-most valuable year of his career to date. Although he was primarily stationed at first base over the last year, he could step back into a hybrid first base/DH role with the Red Sox, who are hurting for infield depth with Hanley Ramirez still working his way back from shoulder surgery.

As for Santana’s other suitors, the Mariners are far less likely to pursue a deal after trading for Ryon Healy last Wednesday. Neither the Mets nor the Phillies have a DH spot to offer the veteran infielder, and the Phillies’ Rhys Hoskins appears to be blocking the way at first base. Then again, Santana may not find a more enticing offer outside of Cleveland, where Edwin Encarnacion might otherwise be the club’s best option at first base. During the GM meetings, Indians’ GM Mike Chernoff said he “love to have both [Santana and Jay Bruce] back” in 2018, but hasn’t backed up that love with any contract talks just yet.