The Tampa Bay Rays’ bench has been hamstrung this entire year, and as time goes on it keeps getting harder to watch. When a right-hander starts the game for the opposing team, the Rays have no left-handers that can come off the bench and pinch-hit later in the game. The Rays have had multiple times already this season where they had a less than favorable matchup in key situations late in a game, but they can’t do anything to change it. The problem is, this whole season they haven’t had a lefty at Triple-A that would be a clear choice to fix this issue. Kevin Kiermaier is the only left-hander that has hit well from the start, but the Rays aren’t going to call-up a top prospect like him just so that he can sit on the bench. But now, the Rays might have a solution, as veteran switch-hitter Wilson Betemit is heating up after a slow start.
Betemit, 32, is no stranger to the big leagues. He made his major league debut when he was just 19-years-old back in 2011, and he has gone on to play parts of 11 seasons in the big leagues, putting up a solid .267/.332/.442 line. He had a solid .744 OPS in 2012 with the Baltimore Orioles, but he missed most of the 2013 season and thus was unable to find a big league deal this offseason. He experienced a slow start in Triple-A this year, but that can be attributed to missing so much time with his injury, as well as a late start to spring training because of visa issues. Now he has finally showed signs that he is shaking off the rust by putting up a .270/.349/. 676 line (1.025 OPS) with four home runs in his last ten games, and he also carried an 8-game hitting streak into Wednesday night. Now that Betemit is hot, the Rays need to seriously consider calling him up.
Having Betemit in the big leagues would help alleviate the Rays bench issues. Betemit is a switch-hitter, but in his career has been much better against righties (.819 OPS vs. 639 OPS against lefties), so he would fill the Rays’ big need nicely. In addition, he has hit much better against righties than lefties this year in Triple-A, with all of his seven home runs coming against righties. He also has the versatility that the Rays love, and has spent time at all four infield spots as well as both corner outfield spots in his big league career. At this point, he would not be a reliable defender at shortstop, but the Rays would not need him to be anyway, and he could provide solid value while seeing some time at third, first, and occasionally at second base. Overall, Betemit fits a big need, as well as adds some extra value with his versatility, so now that he is hot it makes plenty of sense to give him a big league opportunity.
Making room for Betemit would be as easy as sending down Logan Forsythe ,who has struggled to just a .169/.254/.237 line this season. Forsythe is a talented player, and is going to be an important part of the Rays future, but right now he is only hurting the club. If he was a starter, it would be different, but he only plays when the opposing team runs a lefty out on the mound, and therefore there are simply not enough plate appearances for him to get going. Sending him down would be the best thing for Forsythe and the big league team, and there would be no risk of losing him as Forsythe has an option remaining. Betemit is not currently on the 40-man roster, but both Matt Moore and Tim Beckham can be transferred to the 60-day DL to open a spot, so there is no issue there. With Forsythe struggling and Betemit heating up, as well as Betemit’s ability from the left side of the plate, it makes plenty of sense to send Forsythe down to Triple-A and bring Betemit up.
The Rays are hardly one to make decisions on how a player has hit in his last handful of games, but calling up Wilson Betemit could fix plenty of issues for their ballclub. The Rays need someone that can pinch-hit against right handers late in games, but they have not had anyone to fill that role this season. Giving Betemit this job would be a tremendous help to the bench, and it is a move that Andrew Friedman and Co. need to strongly consider.