With the signing of James Loney, the Rays have essentially solidified their starting lineup for the 2014 season. The focus from here will be to find a few quality role players to compliment their roster in the remaining offseason. The Rays appear to be interested in back up infielders, and one of them is Jamey Carroll.
The main reason the Rays have shown interest in Carroll is because of his versatility. Carroll is the prototypical utility player with experience at second base, shortstop, third base and at both corner outfield positions. He has also shown the ability to be a good defender at all of these positions over the course of his career. He even pitched a game for the first time in 2013, hitting 80 MPH as he tossed a perfect inning. The Rays would most likely use him as a backup infielder but his ability to play the outfield as well could prove to be very useful.
Offensively, Carroll is coming off of his worst year at the plate, hitting to a putrid .211/.266/.251 line, but after a year like that, he has nowhere to go but up. He generally has posted good offensive seasons as evidenced by his career line of .272/.349/.338, including .280/.357/.337 line the last five years. Carroll won’t offer any power but does not strike out much. His K% rate of 15.7 was still fairly good in an otherwise dismal season, although his 6.8% walk rate was his lowest since 2002. On the basepaths, he is considered a strong baserunner but does not do much in the way of stealing bases, swiping just 2 bags in 2013. But the most important thing that Carroll does may be his ability to hit leftt-handed pitching.
Carroll’s overall line was terrible, but that primarily came from his numbers against righty pitching–just .193/.247/.217. Against lefties, he was still decent at .258/.315/.333, and there is hope he can trend back towards his .292/.365/.369 career line against them. Carroll’s versatility is nice, and his ability to hit lefties creates an opening for him to get his at-bats. Carroll could spell Matt Joyce, David DeJesus, and occasionally James Loney as well, and the Rays could allow him to stay primarily at his most comfortable defensive position, second base, by moving Ben Zobrist around. Even after a terrible year, don’t disregard Carroll completely at the plate.
Combining his strong defense and versatility with his solid bat against lefties makes Carroll a near-perfect fit for the Rays in a backup role. He will be 40 years old on Opening Day next year, and that along with his dismal 2013 season should guarantee his salary for next season stays low, exactly what the Rays like. If the Rays do indeed sign Carroll, they will get the most out of the ability he has left and he could prove to be a very good asset for them in 2014.