Gibson was recognized by Baseball America this offseason as having the best changeup and best control in the Nationals' farm system. Previously, the publication listed Gibson as having the best curveball in Washington's system. Gibson is the son of former Major League pitcher Paul Gibson, who pitched for the Tigers, Mets and Yankees from 1988-96.
Rays manager Joe Maddon called the trade "good for [Dukes] and good for us at this particular point."
"A large part of it is, for him to be successful -- and it's been discussed often -- is to get him into a different city, a different environment entirely, so he can get away from the Tampa Bay area in general," Maddon said. "So that in and of itself can help him. And obviously from our perspective, we want to maintain what we're doing in the clubhouse right now and maintain the chemistry that we saw really grow. ... I think this is good for Elijah, and I think it's good for us. This kid [Gibson], I'm hearing a lot of interesting stuff [about him]."
With Dukes moving on, the Rays are left with the prospect of having Rocco Baldelli and Jonny Gomes fill in at right field and designated hitter. Given that prospect, Tampa Bay's priority is to acquire a left-handed-hitting right fielder or DH, which would create a situation where three players would be filling two slots.
Targeting such a player occupied much of the Rays' time in Nashville; they would also like to find a left-hander for their bullpen and perhaps a veteran catcher. Even though Tampa Bay didn't acquire a player it wanted through a trade or a free-agent signing, the club felt no pressure to get something done prior to leaving the Winter Meetings.
"All in all, we were able to advance the ball on some discussions we were having," said Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman. "And we ran into some dead ends on others.
"We'll continue to have dialogue with the clubs and individuals we feel like we have the best fit with."
Friedman said the Rays have enough conversations going on that something could happen relatively quickly with a little bit of momentum.
"I can't place odds on it, but we've got some targets both trade-wise and free agent-wise," Friedman said. "If things line up for us, we're going to be aggressive."
Deals done: The Rays traded Dukes to the Nats for Gibson.
Rule 5 activity: The Rays selected right-hander Tim Lahey with the No. 1 pick in the Rule 5 Draft, and then sold him to the Cubs for $150,000. In addition, they lost Double-A right-hander Evan Meek to the Pirates and selected three players -- outfielder Rashad Eldridge and right-handers Julio Puentes and Jose Mejias -- in the Triple-A phase of the Draft.
Goals accomplished: It's too early to tell, but the Rays accomplished some necessary house cleaning by ending the saga of what to do with Dukes.
Unfinished business: The Rays still need a left-handed-hitting right fielder or DH and a left-hander for the bullpen. They're definitely in the mix for veteran free-agent left-hander Ron Mahay. Many names are circulating the rumor mill about who might fill the left-handed hitter role, with players such as Cliff Floyd, Luis Gonzalez, Luke Scott and Josh Hamilton available.
GM's bottom line: "Certain names we would be aggressive to do something, and other names we're kind of slow-playing it." -- Friedman, on the approach the Rays plan to take now that the Winter Meetings have concluded