As tweeted by Corey Brock, the Rays have signed minor league catcher Eddy Rodriguez to a minor league deal. Rodriguez figures to provide the Rays with one more option at catcher in the event of injury to Ryan Hanigan or Jose Molina.
Rodriguez has quite the story that he brings along to the Rays. As Sports Illustrated details, Rodriguez came to the United States from Cuba when he was just seven years old. Similar to defection stories we have heard in the past from players like Jose Fernandez and Leonys Martin, Rodriguez had quite the journey to finally reach the U.S. As per the norm, Rodriguez took a boat from Cuba that was attempting to reach the U.S. unnoticed. The boat left at night, but that night turned out to be nasty, as 20-foot waves continually hammered the small boat that Rodriguez was in. On the journey, his mother split her head open, and his parents were forced to use buckets to get water out of the boat and keep it from capsizing. As they were running critically low on fuel and food, they were forced to put a white flag in hopes somebody would spot them. But then, Rodriguez says, the storm simply parted, and the family was able to make it to American soil. Not only this, but he has had a long path to the big leagues. After being drafted in the 20th round by the Reds in 2006 out of the University of Miami, Rodriguez spent time in the low minors before being released and spending two years in the independent leagues. However, his constant persistence eventually led him to finally play two big league games with the San Diego Padres in 2012, where he homered in his first at-bat. Obviously, Rodriguez has quite the story, but what does he bring to the Rays from a baseball standpoint?
Rodriguez has been touted as a great defender, which fits the Rays’ bill perfectly. He has been known to have an almost-photographic memory, which leads to his ability to handle a pitching staff incredibly well. Rodriguez also has a reputation for a great arm and very good receiving skills. In his career, he has also thrown out a solid 34% of runners that have tried to steal on him. Even if he doesn’t see big league time, he should be a good asset to the Rays’ younger players, both at catcher and pitcher. Overall, he has more than enough to play the position of catcher in the big leagues. The Rays love their defense, so Rodriguez fits in very well from this standpoint.
The reason that Rodriguez has only seen action in two major league games, though, is because of his bat. His career slash line is just .236/.288/.389, which is certainly nothing to be excited about. He has also only played 41 games at the Triple-A level, where his bat has been even worse. At 27 years old, he doesn’t have too much more time to figure it all out at the plate, so it is likely his bat will never be good enough to play for an extended period at the major league level. Another issue, although a much smaller one, is his ability to play in a large number of games. He has only ever caught above 100 games in a season one time (103 in 2012), so he does not seem too durable. However, the Rays won’t need him to be a starting catcher, so this is not too much of a problem.
Where does Eddy Rodriguez fit in with the Rays? Well, considering Jose Molina and Ryan Hanigan already have the two catching spots locked down, Rodriguez won’t have a big league roster spot. Jose Lobaton is still in the cards as well, although he is out of options and figures to be dealt unless an injury occurs to Hanigan Or Molina. The Rays also recently signed fellow catcher and Roman Ali Solis, who will compete with Rodriguez to gain the number three catching spot (assuming Lobaton does not remain in the organization). Both Solis and Rodriguez will likely start 2014 at Triple-A, where they can split the starting duties and stay fresh in case they are needed by the Rays. Given his outstanding defensive reputation, it would not be surprising to see Rodriguez with the Rays in the event of an injury to Molina or Hanigan. Once again, the Rays have made a decent depth signing in an area where they needed some depth. Having depth at a position, especially a premium one like catcher, is always something teams strive for. Maybe it doesn’t end up having an effect in 2014, but the Rays have themselves a catcher capable of holding his own in the big leagues if needed.