The Winter Meetings are in full force, and it is only day one. Usually you do not see much in the way of Rays rumors, but today we have a big one. Jerry Crasnick recently tweeted that the Rays are making a serious run at outfielder Josh Willingham. Ken Rosenthal then tweeted that nothing is close, but the Rays are among three or four finalists.
This could certainly be an interesting development, as Willingham could be the bat the Rays need. Willingham had a breakout season last year with the Athletics, hitting .246 with 29 homers. The two seasons before that he had promising years, hitting .268 with 16 homers in 2010 and .260 with 24 homers in 2010. Willingham would bring a power bat the Rays have been looking for. He is a righty, which the Rays do not really need since their two best lefties are now free agents, but any bat is a good bat.
The question will be, if the Rays pull this off, where will he play? Willingham spent 96 of his 136 games in left field last season. The Rays do not really need an outfielder, since they have three solid starters in Desmond Jennings, BJ Upton, and Matt Joyce. Could there be a BJ Upton deal looming, leaving the Rays in need of a left fielder? Most likely not. Willingham does not have dazzling defense, so the Rays could be looking at him as their new DH. They could also be looking at him as a first base option. He has only played in 3 games at first base in his career, both as in-game shifts, but he did not make an error in 4 innings.
My best guess is that he would become the DH, maybe getting some starts in the outfield against lefties to get Matt Joyce out of the lineup. Josh Willingham would certainly fall into the Rays price range and would be a good bat to put in the lineup. We will see if this rumor comes to fruition, but at any rate, hearing rumors this early in the Winter Meetings means this could be a busy week for Rays fans.