The key player that the Tampa Bay Rays gave up to acquire catcher Ryan Hanigan and reliever Heath Bell was outfielder Todd Glaesmann. But we heard on Friday, right out of the blue, that Glaesmann decided to call it quits. Glaesmann remarked that his passion for baseball was gone and that retiring from baseball would be the best thing for the rest of his life. How does any of this make any sense?
Following the 2012 season, Todd Glaesmann was named the Tampa Bay Rays Minor League Player of the Year. A third round pick out of Midway High School in Texas in 2009, Glaesmann hit to a .285/.336/.493 line with 25 doubles, 7 triples, 21 homers, 75 RBI, and 8 stolen bases in 540 plate appearances between Low-A and High-A, bursting onto the scene as a prospect after three years of mediocre results. The Rays saw a player with the ability to do it all. Glaesmann always had a quick stroke, but in 2012 he began to harness his strength in his 6’4″, 220 frame and tap into his power. He continued to move extremely well for his size, swiping the occasional base and running hard to leg out his doubles his triples. Defensively, he played mostly in centerfield but showed the ability to be a special defender in right field, combining excellent range with tremendous arm strength. There was just one question with his game: his plate discipline. Glaesmann struck out 124 times against just 30 walks even in his breakout year. Could Glaesmann do a good enough job laying off breaking pitches and finding mistakes to keep hitting at upper levels? In 2013, it appeared as though he could not.
In 529 plate appearances for Double-A Montgomery, Glaesmann hit to just a .240/.289/.378 line, striking out 110 times against just 26 walks. His power did not totally disappear as he hit 28 doubles and 11 homers, and he also stole 6 bases. Defensively, he managed 10 outfield assists. But it wasn’t enough. The Rays saw things that they liked, but plenty that they did not as well. The saw a player who had looked overmatched in four of his five professional seasons and looked especially bad against more advanced pitching. The raw ability continued to tantalize them, but if the right opportunity came, they were ready to give up. The Arizona Diamondbacks came calling, asking for Glaesmann in the trade that brought the Rays Hanigan and Bell, and the Rays agreed without too much hesitation.
Despite being a third round pick, Glaesmann was the highest pick signed by the Rays in 2009 as they failed to sign both first rounder LeVon Washington and second round selection Kenny Diekroeger. Signing for an above-slot $930,000, expectations were immediately placed on Glaesmann, and there was some desperation for the Rays as they hoped he could somehow succeed and salvage their draft. Maybe Glaesmann simply could not take it. It took him four years to get comfortable and once he did, it was only a tease before he fell apart again. And as soon as he began to stumble once more, the Rays cut bait. We cannot understand how difficult it is to take that. Glaesmann was asked to do too much, to fill the shoes of three players when all he could be was one. He finally reached expectations, but the only thing they wanted was more and more, and he simply could not do it. Then the trade happened, and it was a new organization but the same story. Glaesmann was the key to the deal, and he had to perform or be forgotten. Some people just can’t take it.
Todd Glaesmann could choose to come back. Considering he is just 23 years old, the Diamondbacks would surely take him back if he changed his mind after taking a season off. Or maybe this is the end. Did the Rays see this coming? Did they trade him to the Diamondbacks knowing there was a real chance his career would be over? We have heard crazier things happen, but probably no one knew. We always think about the physical part of the game, but it can be the mental part that makes all the difference. Glaesmann has the tools to have a chance, but a chance was no longer good enough. He wanted tangible results, results that would satisfy him and the people watching him, and they simply never came for long enough.