Rays have a fresh, creative marketing plan

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zztop-100316.jpgYou have to admire the Tampa Bay Rays. They are the little engine that could, the young kid who stood up to the neighborhood bullies of the AL East and delivered a few bloody noses on the way to the 2008 World Series.

But despite the team’s recent run of success, the Rays have had a hard time drawing fans to the Trop, averaging just more than 23,000 fans per game in 2009, which ranked 23rd out of the 30 teams.

In order to inspire the masses and convince them that watching baseball in a tomb is a good idea, the club has come up with an aggressive marketing plan that includes advertisements with snappy drum music, an official team drink (Raytini, anyone?) and much, much more.

Take it away, Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times:

Come to Tropicana Field, the pitch goes, and the Rays promise an afternoon or evening of fresh giveaways, creative T-shirts, teenager specific hangouts, local entertainment, post-game fireworks and some well known Saturday night concerts with bands that range from ZZ Top to The Go-Go’s.

I’m all for fresh giveaways, and nothing sounds more thrilling than a creative T-shirt, particularly if it comes launched from a fresh and creative T-shirt cannon. I’m even willing to brave the side effects of smoke inhalation — Raytini in hand — to take in an indoor fireworks show.

But I have a problem with the Rays’ choice of post-game musical entertainment. ZZ Top? The Go-Gos? Is that really the best they can do? Given that St. Petersburg is often referred to as “God’s waiting room,” I question the wisdom of booking such contemporary acts.

Pat Boone, who is apparently among the new wave of BALCO clients, would seem a better choice for the fan base. And he’s available

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Padres acquire Phil Hughes from Twins

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Twins right-hander Phil Hughes is headed to the Padres, according to announcements from both teams on Sunday. The Padres will also receive the 74th overall draft pick and cash considerations from the Twins, who are getting minor league catcher Janigson Villalobos in return. Minnesota is expected to absorb $7.5 million of Hughes’ $22 million contract; per MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand, they’ll take on his remaining salary for the 2018 season and pay an additional $5.7 million in 2019.

Hughes, 31, is far from the 16-win, sub-4.00 ERA hurler the Twins enjoyed in 2014. He hasn’t pitched more than 60 innings in any season since 2015, due in part to multiple bouts of back stiffness and shoulder surgeries. He was designated for assignment last week after missing significant time with a left oblique strain and delivering a 6.75 ERA, 3.8 BB/9 and 6.0 SO/9 through his first 12 innings of 2018.

Villalobos, meanwhile, will provide the Twins with some depth as he continues to work his way through the minor league system. The 21-year-old backstop recently completed a circuit with the Padres’ rookie-level affiliate in the Arizona League, slashing .275/.367/.388 with eight extra bases and a .755 OPS in 98 PA.

The real get for the Padres isn’t Hughes (even with much of his salary already accounted for), but the Competitive Balance B selection in next week’s amateur draft. As MLB.com’s AJ Cassavell points out, the club lost their second-round pick after inking Eric Hosmer to a massive eight-year, $144 million deal back in February.