While there were not many major headline-making deals (see: Pujols in 2011) made at the annual Baseball Winter Meetings in Nashville (a mere one hour drive from Bowling Green Ballpark) last week, the Tampa Bay Rays, parent club of the Class A Hot Rods, made two offseason swaps, one before the Winter Meetings and one immediately after, that could shape future Hot Rods rosters, maybe as recently as 2013.
The first move that made waves felt all the way in South Central Kentucky was the swapping of reliever Burke Badenhop to the Brewers in exchange for Minor League outfielder Raul Mondesi, Jr. The son and namesake of the former Major League All-Star was a 2012 member of the Pioneer League Helena Brewers, meaning a trip to the Midwest League was already in Mondesi's near future. Now, he will have to make the leap with a different organization.
Mondesi, 20, hit .231 with five home runs and 32 runs batted in 2012, which was his first stateside season in the Brewers organization. If and when Mondesi suits up in Bowling Green, his connection to the inaugural Hot Rods squad in 2009 should not be overlooked. The Rays acquired Badenhop in December of 2011 for former Hot Rods catcher Jake Jefferies ('09).
Mondesi's father Raul Mondesi, Sr. played 13 seasons in the Majors and won the 1994 National League Rookie of the Year while with the Dodgers. The Mondesi family is also keeping a watchful eye on the progress of 17-year-old Adalberto Mondesi, one of the top prospects in the Royals system.
Speaking of the Kansas City Royals, the Rays were involved in a swap with the Royals that just might go down as the biggest of the 2012-2013 baseball offseason. The pitching-deep Rays sent Major League hurlers James Shields and Wade Davis to the Royals for prospects Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi, Mike Montgomery, and Patrick Leonard. While Myers, Odorizzi, and Montgomery should contribute to the Rays at the Major League level sooner rather than later, Leonard is the cog in this deal that Hot Rods fans should start familiarizing themselves with.
Leonard, 20, is originally from Florida but played high school baseball for Craig Biggio at St. Thomas in Houston. While playing for the Burlington Royals in the Appalachian League in 2012, the former shortstop and now-third baseman hit 14 home runs and drove in 46 runs in 62 games. All of this occurred in his first professional season. Leonard was drafted in the fifth round in 2011 and looks destined to man the Hot Rods hot corner sometime soon.
Not every Major League trade - blockbuster or back page headliner - has ripple effects in Low-A, but the Rays big moves this offseason will most likely alter the make-up of the 25 or 26 players present at Bowling Green Ballpark's fifth annual Media Day on April 2, 2013.