The Devil Rays remained surprisingly active as the deadline loomed, trading disgruntled first baseman Jorge Cantu and Double-A outfielder Shaun Cumberland to the Reds for righthander Calvin Medlock and lefthander Brian Shackelford, both of whom are minor league relievers. The Reds also get cash to help offset Cantu’s $410,000 salary, while the Rays get future considerations.
Cantu was Tampa Bay‘s most consistent offensive threat in 2005, when he hit .286/.311/.497 with 28 homers and 117 RBIs, while manning second base. But Cantu, whom the Devil Rays signed out of Mexico in 1998, battled injuries in 2006 and his production tumbled to .249/.295/.404 in 413 at-bats. He was optioned to Triple-A to begin this season, as the Rays opted to go with B.J. Upton at second and Akinori Iwamura at third, and Cantu responded by demanding a trade, even threatening not to report to Durham. The 25-year-old Cantu ultimately did report, and even though he didn’t play well, he was recalled to the majors in late April. That didn’t last long, either, and Cantu was in the minors at the time of the trade. He hit his first home run of the season at any level July 25.
Tampa Bay harbored high hopes for Cumberland, the club’s 10th-round pick from a Florida high school in 2003, but the right fielder had yet to translate his tools to on-field production. Even though the 22-year-old was batting just .246/.303/.347 for Montgomery at the time of the trade, he offers speed, arm strength, budding power from the left side and the athleticism to play all three outfield spots. Cumberland‘s trouble has been plate discipline, as he gives away too many at-bats. His brother Drew, a shortstop, was a Padres supplemental first-round pick in June.
With a fine 129-33 K-BB ratio in 111 1/3 Southern League relief innings in 2006 and 2007, Medlock has proven he can handle Double-A. The 5-foot-10 righty, a 2002 draft-and-follow from North Central Texas JC, throws a lively 88-92 mph fastball, but struggles to get downhill plane on the pitch and, consequently, most of his outs are recorded on fly balls. Medlock, 24, also throws strikes with a curveball and changeup.
The 30-year-old Shackelford, taken by the Royals from Oklahoma in the 13th round of the 1998 draft, pitched for the Reds in both 2005 and 2006, handcuffing lefthanded batters. He hasn’t gotten them out this season with Triple-A Louisville, however, as same-siders have hit .296/.391/.370 against him. The 6-foot-1 lefty throws a tailing 88-92 mph fastball, a cutter, a slider and a changeup, all from a high three-quarters arm slot. Shackelford, a two-way player in college, got more than 1,500 at-bats as an outfielder before the Royals switched him to the mound midway through the 2002 season.
Anxious to remake their bullpen, the Devil Rays added two relief candidates in exchange for Cantu, a player without a role, and Cumberland, who had not met expectations. Though Medlock and Shackelford were assigned to Durham, the Rays also added relievers Dan Wheeler and Grant Balfour, giving the organization several options. From the Reds’ perspective, it’s hard to see where Cantu fits, seeing as they already have Brandon Phillips, one of the better second basemen in the league. It might be third base, where Cincinnati has grown less than enamored of Edwin Encarnacion, who’s neither hitting nor playing above-average defense. Cantu was assigned to Triple-A Louisville and played against his old team, Durham, in a doubleheader July 28.