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!