Sep 18, 2013; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays left fielder Sean Rodriguez (1) is congratulated by designated hitter Delmon Young (15) after he hit a 2-run home run during the sixth inning against the Texas Rangers at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Final Pieces of the Tampa Bay Rays' Puzzle

It’s six weeks to pitchers and catchers reporting and it’s time for the Rays’ to finalize their roster. Andrew Friedman says he needs a utility man and a reliever, although that was before the Rays signed Jayson Nix. I think he needs a little more. Here are the moves I would make over the next few weeks.

Trade Jose Lobaton to the Royals for Emilio Bonifacio: To make the most of Joe Maddon’s lineup madness, he needs a couple of versatile bench players. Bonifacio is perfect as a switch hitter who plays six different positions, fields well at all of them and features the speed the Rays were missing last year. His career line is .262/.322/.340, but he wouldn’t be on the team to hit.. Best of all he knows how to come of the bench and be productive. The Royals need a backup catcher–a role Lobaton could play quite capably–and Bonifacio is extra baggage after the signing of Omar Infante to place second base.

Sign Jeff Baker: Baker missed time through a thumb sprain in 2013, but he was unbelievable when he was on the field, hitting to a .279/.360/.545 line with 11 homers in just 175 plate appearances. He too plays six different positions and has a career line of .293/.353/.522 line against left-handed pitching. He is the player the Rays want platooning at DH and in the outfield, not Sean Rodriguez. He’s probably won’t cost more than $2 million thanks to his injury and overall limitations, and the Rays should pounce.

Sign Delmon Young: Young accepted $750,000 to sign with the Philadelphia Phillies last offseason, and he can’t be asking for much more now, even after his strong finish to 2013. It’s a no-brainer for the Rays to bring him back. Love him or hate him, he finally has his head screwed on straight and can hit both lefty and righty pitching. Give him a cheap contract and see what he can do. Worst-case scenario, he amounts to nothing and they cut him.

Trade Matt Joyce and Sean Rodriguez for Relief Help and/or Prospects: Joyce is one of those players who always seem more valuable than they are until you actually have them on your team. Let some other team deal with his tantalizing potential but never-ending inconsistency. Rodriguez, meanwhile, is completely out of his element on the Rays’ roster right now. His real role should be a utility player who can spell players across the field against left-handed pitching, but he wound up seeing time primarily at left field and first base, a waste of his talent. He can play shortstop, but he played there just 7 times in 2013 thanks to Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar. Teams know he can do more than that, and let’s see how much they are willing to give up for him. If the Rays can get players like Bonafacio, Baker, and Young, Joyce and Rodriguez will see their time finally come to be traded. If the Rays can get another reliever to fill out their bullpen better than Cesar Ramos or Josh Lueke would or a solid prospect or two, dealing them would be worth it.

I like this new bench a lot better than what the Rays currently have on board. It gives them a couple of opportunities to platoon in left field and Joe Maddon can mix and match to his hearts content. It is also about a wash on salary as they are only making moves within their comfort zone. Go for it, Rays!

Tags: Delmon Young Emilio Bonafacio Jeff Baker Jose Lobaton Matt Joyce Sam Fuld Sean Rodriguez

10 Comments on The Final Pieces of the Tampa Bay Rays’ Puzzle

  1. Jason Nereim says:

    Only problem is that all of the players you want the Rays to bring in are all guys who perform better versus LHP. Further, while Bonifacio is average with the glove, Baker and Young are both below average fielders and redundant. I say bring in one, not both. I prefer Baker due to a more prominent platoon split and defensive versatility. Also, where is Guyer? He is out of options and is clearly the best defensive option in the outfield. Who would DH versus RHP? All of the guys you referenced shouldn’t get everyday ABs especially against righties. Meanwhile, Joyce is above average versus righties.

    Based on your ideas, I like the Bonifacio and Baker moves. I would keep Joyce and possibly trade Srod. Bench would be Molina, Guyer, Baker, and Bonifacio.

  2. Rose Parciak McAnally says:

    I still think Delmon Young deserves a look. He hits in the clutch and he hits everything hard. Outs often become errors when you hit it hard.

    • Jason Nereim says:

      Only Negative with Delmon is lack of defensive ability. Carrying a no-glove player on the bench can hinder your versatility.Secondly he carries a fairly neutral platoon split (95 wRC+ versus LHP and 99 wRC+ versus RHP). So if you want a player that can carry the weight of a weak side platoon, Delmon likely isn’t the best fit.

      • david egbert says:

        I would only sign Young as a DH. Somebody has to man that position and having Young in the lineup every day is less taxing on the bench than a platoon situation

  3. Ryan says:

    I don’t really see a need for the Rays to add any other relievers unless his name is Grant Balfour. They already have 5 guys who are locks for the pen (Peralta, Bell, Oviedo, McGee, Torres), and at least 12 other guys who can fill the last 2 spots (Gomes, Lueke, Ramos, Figueroa, Lowe, Belliveau, Reifenhauser, Yates, Liberatore, Montgomery, Colome, Geltz). I’d say the Rays are pretty set there, unless they want to add a closer. Other than that, I like Nereim’s suggestion below, goin with Molina, Guyer, Baker, and Bonifacio as the bench. Also, I’d sign a guy like Scott Sizemore to a minor league deal for depth.

    • david egbert says:

      First of all, Oviedo hasn’t throw a pitch in the majors since 2011 so you have no idea what he brings to the party. Secondly, The Rays could use a lefty specialist and/or a ground ball reliever. I agree that someone from the list you mentioned will be the 7th man in the bullpen.

      • Jason Nereim says:

        How could the rays use a lefty specialist? They already have two lefties (Torres and McGee) that dominant BOTH right and left handed batters. Further, even Ramos held opposing left handed batters to a below league average wOBA. I could keep going as both Peralta and Oviedo have acute reverse platoon splits and Bell handles the handedness of batters equally as well.

        I highly doubt the Rays, a team that always treads with caution, would give Oviedo a guaranteed major league deal if they didn’t feel confident is his medicals and ability to contribute on the field in 2014. Considering he was rehabbing with the team all year, they would know better than anyone else.

        If there is still a “need” in the bullpen, I would say adding another roogy could be a nice luxury. Someone like Dotel or Marmol could be brought in. Internally, Lueke (out of options) and Lowe (minor league deal) are worth a look.

        • david egbert says:

          Being healthy and being effective are two different things. Given that, I will be thrilled if Oviedo reverts to 2011 form. I see McGee and Torres as setup men for the 7th and 8th. I wouldn’t waste them on a single lefty hitter. Yes, a lefty specialist is a luxury but teams that play in October have such luxuries.

          • Jason Nereim says:

            Well like I said, if the Rays weren’t confident in Oviedo being healthy, I doubt they would have given him a guaranteed deal.

            Some may find a lefty specialist to be a luxury, I find it to be a burden. Its like carrying a platoon player on your bench. Would you rather have a guy who hits one handedness well or both? The Rays pen is full of guys that preform well against both handedness. You don’t need “specialists” when you have those type of guys. You can bring in Torres or McGee and let them facec whoever the opposing manager wants to throw out there. With guys like Bell, Oviedo, Peralta, McGee, and Torres, you have more than enough arms to navigate through the 6th through 9th innings workout having to worry about individual batter match ups.

            Last note, its really not smart to burn a lefty specialist early in the game anyways. Unless it was an unusually high leverage situation like the bases loaded in the 5th or something.

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