Given the Rays struggles on offense for much of this season, it is obvious that they need an upgrade in their lineup. Of the position players that have gotten the most playing time this year, only one, Ben Zobrist, has an OPS+ over 100. Even though the Rays’ three best hitters this season have missed time with injuries (Evan Longoria, Matthew Joyce, and Jeff Keppinger), there are still problems with production.
For all the attention given to the Rays catching woes, there are also significant problems in the middle of the infield, particularly at second base. Since Zobrist and Keppinger have played at second this season, these problems have been somewhat covered over. However, Will Rhymes, who has played the second most games at second base of anyone on the Rays this season, has provided almost nothing when in the lineup. As Rhymes has also played an additional fifteen games at third, this is another area where an upgrade is needed.
A natural fit for the middle infield for the Rays would be Marco Scutaro. With the Colorado Rockies already being in sell mode, Scutaro has already come up on the trade market. He is in the final year of his contract, and can play both shortstop and second base.
For the season, Scutaro is hitting at a .275/.325/.367 clip with four home runs. While he is more of a doubles hitter than anything else, Scutaro is good at making contact (only 518 career strikeouts in 4114 at bats) and would fit nicely in the second spot of the lineup. Offensively, he would be an upgrade over Rhymes, who is hitting only at a .233/.306/.292 rate.
Acquiring Scutaro would also help the rest of the lineup. Zobrist and Keppinger would be able to remain in right field and third respectively, producing a stronger lineup. Rhymes would be able to play the role of a utility infielder, picking up two or three starts a week different positions.
While the Rockies are reportedly asking for a lot for Scutaro at present, the price tag is likely to drop as the deadline approaches. With the Rockies issues on pitching, the Rays could make a likely trade partner. As Scutaro’s contract ends after this season, his acquisition would not block prospect Hak-Ju Lee in the coming seasons. Also, when Longoria is eventually activated from the disabled list, Scutaro would provide another option in the middle of the infield for Joe Maddon.
Marco Scutaro could be a nice fit for the Tampa Bay Rays, and may be able to be had at a manageable cost. Should the Rockies asking price decrease, he could be a nice piece for a playoff push.