Yankees trade first baseman Mike Ford to Rays in rare deal between AL East rivals

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Thursday afternoon, the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays hooked up for only the fourth ever trade before the two AL East rivals. The Yankees sent first baseman Mike Ford to the Rays for cash and a player to be named later, the team announced. The Rays have assigned Ford to their Triple-A affiliate.

Ford, 28, originally signed with the Yankees as an undrafted free agent in July 2013. He made his MLB debut in 2019, when the Yankees had their historic injury season, and authored a .259/.350/.559 batting line with 12 home runs in 163 plate appearances. One of those 12 home runs was a walk-off shot against Liam Hendriks.

In the two years since, Ford has hit .134/.250/.276 with five home runs in 156 plate appearances. He was unable to lock down the first base job while Luke Voit was on the injured list earlier this season. Ford is a career .268/.359/.501 hitter in parts of four seasons at the Triple-A level. He’s proven all he can in the minors.

As noted, this is only the fourth ever trade between the Yankees and Rays. Here are the other three:

  • May 24, 2006: Rays sent infielder Nick Green to the Yankees for cash.
  • April 2, 2016: Yankees sent catcher Carlos Corporán to the Rays for cash.
  • Feb. 20, 2018: As part of a three-team trade, the Yankees sent infielder Nick Solak to the Rays and received infielder Brandon Drury from the Diamondbacks.

The Yankees designated Ford for assignment this past weekend to clear a 40-man roster spot when Zack Britton was activated off the 60-day injured list. The trade tells us a) the Rays wanted Ford enough to make the trade rather than hope he got to them on waivers, and b) the Yankees expected to lose Ford on waivers, and made the trade to ensure they received something in return.

Cash or a player to be named later isn’t much, but it is the typical return for a player who has been designated for assignment, and it’s better than losing the player for nothing on waivers. Ford is stuck behind Ji-Man Choi, a similar left-handed hitting first base-only player, on Tampa’s depth chart. The Yankees have Chris Gittens as their up and down first baseman.

The Rays come into Thursday in first place in the AL East at 43-26. The Yankees are seven games back in third place at 35-32. Tampa is 8-5 against the Yankees this season. They don’t play each other again until July 27-29 at Tropicana Field.

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