- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 3, 2013

ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. (AP) - Catcher Ryan Hanigan and reliever Heath Bell are eager to try to help the Tampa Bay Rays get back to the playoffs.

Hanigan was acquired from the Cincinnati Reds and Bell from the Arizona Diamondbacks as part of a three-team trade Tuesday.

The deal was announced after Hanigan agreed to a $10.75 million, three-year contract that runs through 2016 and includes a club option for 2017.

Tampa Bay sent minor league pitcher Justin Choate and a player to be named to the Diamondbacks. Arizona dealt left-hander David Holmberg to Cincinnati.

Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman called a Hanigan “a tremendously talented defensive catcher” who can also help the Rays offensively.

“He takes a lot of pride in what he does behind the plate and we also like what he can do in the batter’s box, especially against left-handed pitching,” Friedman said. “He’s a guy we’ve had our eye on for a while. and so when we had the opportunity to acquire him, we were aggressive to do so.”

Hanigan, 33, is expected to become Tampa Bay’s primary catcher, even though he and Friedman said they won’t head into spring training with a preconceived notion. The trade was completed a day after free agent catcher Jose Molina was re-signed to a $4.5 million, two-year contract.

“We’ll figure out matchups, we’ll figure out what makes the most sense on any given night, but we feel like he makes our team better,” Friedman said. “Whether that’s 70 games, 80 games, 90 games, 100 games, I don’t know yet. We’ll figure that out as the season gets underway.”

Bell will be a candidate to become the Rays’ closer _ a job held the past two seasons by Fernando Rodney, who is a free agent.

For the Diamondbacks, giving up the hard-throwing right-hander was a cost-saving move. The deal saves the team $5.5 million of Bell’s $9 million salary _ and Miami is paying the other $3.5 million as part of the three-team trade in October last year. Arizona general manager Kevin Towers gains flexibility in trying bolster depth and plug holes.

“We’ve still got some bench pieces we need to put together, We still have interest in bringing back Eric Chavez,” Towers said, adding that the Diamondbacks also remain in the market for a starting pitcher and perhaps a corner outfielder with power.

He’s also excited about the prospects headed for Arizona from Tampa Bay, particularly the player to be named.

“Someone we value a lot as a prospect,” Towers said. “That’s not to take anything away from Mr. Choate, but I would say that probably is the key player in the deal.”

Hanigan is a .262 career hitter who spent the past seven seasons with the Reds. He batted .198 with two homers and 21 RBIs in 75 games in 2013, when he spent two stints on the disabled list _ one because of a strained left oblique muscle and the other a sprained left wrist.

Friedman is confident the catcher is healthy and “will return to the really good player he’s always been.”

Story Continues →