It has happened so many times that it is almost a cliche at this point, where teams take a struggling starter, put him in the bullpen, and he becomes a valuable commodity as a reliever. For Jamey Wright, that transition also continued his odyssey as a baseball vagabond.
Originally, Wright came up as a starter with the Colorado Rockies back in 1996. After bring traded to the Brewers following the 1999 season, Wright spent roughly two and a half years in Milwaukee, he was traded to the Cardinals. Granted free agency at the end of the year, he was then signed and released by the Seattle Mariners, the Brewers, and the Texas Rangers before ending the 2003 season with the Kansas City Royals. A free agent again, his 2004 season was similar, as he was signed and released by the Chicago Cubs and the Royals before finding himself back on the Rockies to finish the year.
In 2005, Wright stayed on the same team for the first time since 2001, as he was able to finally unpack his luggage while a member of the Rockies. From there, he spent a year with the San Francisco Giants, before being signed by the Texas Rangers. After struggling as a starter for the first half of the season, going 3-3 with a 4.57 ERA and 28 walks against 17 strikeouts, the Rangers converted him into a reliever. In that role, Wright was successful, going 1-2 with a 2.52 ERA, striking out 22 batters while walking only 13.
Wright spent his first full year as a reliever in 2008, appearing in 75 games for the Rangers, yet without the same success he had found the previous year. He finished with an 8-7 record, but had a 5.12 ERA and a 1.518 WHiP. From Texas, he went to the Royals again, pitching a bit better than he had in 2008. Wright bounced around more in the 2010 season, originally singing with the Cleveland Indians, where he struggled before being released. He then signed with the Oakland A’s, spending a month with the Sacramento River Cats. He continued to struggle in the Pacific Coast League, and was released. Wright was then picked up by the Mariners again, where he found success. Resigned by the Mariners for 2011, he had his best season as a reliever, compiling a 2-3 record with his only career save. Wright set career marks in ERA and WHiP, at 3.16 and 1.332 respectively.
He then moved on to the Dodgers last season, where he went 5-3 with a 3.72 ERA. However, Wright had a WHiP of 1.507, which he managed to work around by getting ground balls, as he had a ground ball to fly ball rate of 2.15. Now, Wright finds himself at yet another stop, signed by the Tampa Bay Rays to a minor league contract with an invitation to the major league camp. So, what do the Rays get with this essentially league average, much traveled righty?
First, the Rays are getting someone that has been a ground ball machine since being converted to a reliever. Over the past five years, Wright has a ground ball to fly ball rate of 1.62. He has gotten more than twice as many ground outs as air outs. Also, he has averaged just over ten double plays per season, as his ground ball tendencies have helped to extract him from potentially difficult situations. Secondly, Wright has been remarkably durable, averaging 62 appearances a season. Wright has been able to take the ball when called upon, which certainly has a value all it’s own.
As the Rays look for someone to take on the role that Burke Badenhop filled admirably last season, Jamey Wright may end up being that player. Even though he is one of those players that tend to fly under the radar and are far from an exciting pick up, Wright is another veteran arm with a track record of success that fits what the Rays appear to like in a reliever. This 38 year old journeyman may end up being a useful piece for the 2013 bullpen.