Sep 27, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Tampa Bay Rays designated hitter Delmon Young (15) hits a solo home run in the second inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Tampa Bay Rays Designated Hitters: Can Anybody Here Play This Game?

In the early 1960’s the expansion New York Mets were considered to be the worst team in the majors prompting their legendary manger Casey Stengel to ask “can anybody here play this game?” Much the same could be said about Tampa Bay Rays’ designated hitters during the Andrew Friedman era. For the last six years, the Rays have searched high and low for a DH and for the most part have come up empty. Let’s take a quick look at the motley crew that has manned that spot in the order for the Rays.

2008 Cliff Floyd: Floyd was a talented player in his day and a great guy in the clubhouse but there was no gas left in the tank when he reached the Rays. He made only 284 plate appearances and put up a .268/.349/.489 line. Not bad numbers but his body would not hold up and he was not asked back the next year.

2009 Pat Burrell: Friedman rolls the dice and gives Pat Burrell $16 million over two tears. Burrell is a train wreck with a .221/.315/.367 line. Note to Friedman: Don’t give big money to aging free agent sluggers.

2010 Willy Aybar: Burrell is back but year two is worse than year one. A combination of injuries and poor performance eventually leads to him being released. Willy Aybar takes over the DH role and puts up a .230/.309/.344 line. Not very inspiring plus Aybar had an alcohol problem and was a spousal abuser. He was out of baseball the next year.

2011 Johnny Damon: Damon gave the Rays a glimmer of hope in 2011. He went to the plate 647 times with a .261/.326/.418 line with 16 homers and 73 RBI. Not exactly Edgar Martinez numbers but certainly an improvement on the previous crew. Unfortunately, time had run out on Damon and the following year was his last in the majors.

2012/13 Luke Scott: Freidman once again tried to catch lightening in a bottle. In his prime, Scott had been a big time slugger with the Houston Astros and Baltimore Orioles but injuries had taken their toll. The Rays gambled the Scott was physically sound and lost. He went to the plate 567 times over two years with 23 homers and 95 rbi’s. Not bad totals for one year but not acceptable over two. Scott just signed to play in Korea.

So where do we go from here? Truthfully, there is not much available. Kendrys Morales is over priced and requires a 1st round draft choice. After that we look at:

Mark Reynolds: I don’t like boom or bust guys and that certainly describes Reynolds. It won’t make any difference because some team with money and desperate for a Dh or first baseman will overpay him.

Delmon Young. I think the light bulb has finally gone on for Young and he will come to somebody’s camp in shape and motivated. He knows that if he doesn’t, the next stop is as Scott’s teammate in Korea. Give him $1million and a bunch of incentives and see what happens.

Leslie Anderson/Vince Belnome: For those of you who want to free Leslie Anderson, this may be your chance. Anderson hitting left and Belnome right showed some power and average in Triple-A and maybe it’s their time. They also play five different positions between them. And finally, they’re cheaper than anyone else. But while those two could work their way into time, the Rays didn’t make all their moves to begin 2014 with those two lined up at DH.

Matt Joyce/Sean Rodriguez: A couple of under ahievers trying to hang on. Good power on the best of days but a lot of strikeouts on the worst. Between them, in a pinch, they can play every position on the field. At least you know what you’re getting.

The trade: The Tampa Bay Rays have Joyce, Rodriguez and Lobaton available to trade for a decent DH or position player that could see time there. The question is what value other GM’s put on this trio.

What’s the right choice? It’s hard to say. Just don’t tell me it’s Carlos Pena III!

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Tags: Delmon Young Leslie Anderson Luke Scott Matt Joyce Tampa Bay Rays Vince Belnome

  • Ryan

    I honestly don’t see you getting a decent DH with Joyce, Rodriguez, and Lobaton. Just not much value there, and what value you would get wouldn’t be much if any of an improvement I would imagine. Delmon Young is still a possibility, and I think Mark Reynolds could also be a guy to look at as a RH’d part of a DH platoon, although not my 1st choice. Another guy I’d suggest is Jeff Baker, who I personally like the best.

    On a side note, both Belnome and Anderson hit LH’d, so I’m not sure I understand how a platoon with them would work.

    • Robbie_Knopf

      They’re not making the team, so don’t worry about that.

  • david egbert

    You are right on Belnome. My mistake.I’m with you on Baker. Maybe he is the platoon partner for Anderson.

    • Ryan

      Isn’t Anderson a minor league free agent, though?

      • david egbert

        That’s what everybody thought but through some quirk of his original contract the Rays have control of him for another two years. I think he signed for 4 years and a team can control a player for six before he has to be put on the 40 man roster or is a free agent. I’ll research that a bit.

  • phattitudes

    Assuming Joyce and Rodriguez stay and Lobaton goes, we have two open roster spots. I would love to see Guyer and Belnome get the shots. These guys have produced and deserve the shot. They are young and hungry. If not them find some other minor league standout who just never gets his shot. I would much rather watch them than some overprice name who is trying to regain his form. Any players who are in form already are out of the Rays price range. Selective use of Joyce and Rodriguez is about as good as your are going to get at DH for the Rays. People love to pick on Joyce but he did have a .783 OPS vs right handers while having an off year. His career OPS vs righties is .835. We should be happy with him. You are going to find better in at an affordable price. If Joyce falls on his face Guyer and Belnome each have credentials that would support giving them ABs at DH.

    • Drew Jenkins

      I believe Guyer is going to get his shot as David DeJesus’ platoon mate in left, especially after we let go of Sam Fuld. Belnome could be a good internal fit with Rodriguez as a platoon mate at DH, and he offers the ability to come off the bench and play multiple infield positions, although he is a fairly mediocre defender.

    • david egbert

      The problem with Guyer is heath issues. As for Belnome, we have no idea what he can produce at a major league level.

  • Rose Parciak McAnally

    From what I saw at the end of last season Delmon Young should be brought back to start the season and see where it goes. He is a clutch hitter and even his outs are hit hard, Hard hitters produce errors and get on base that way also.

    • Drew Jenkins

      He could be a good cheap fit, especially as a platoon mate with Joyce at DH. And he offers the ability to play outfield if needed, although he is a below-average defender.

    • david egbert

      The problem is in Delmon’s head not his bat. If he gets his head straightened out, he can be a winner.