Can Brennan Boesch Become the Next Rays Reclamation Project?

By David Hill

Back in November, before the Winter Meetings took place, Brennan Boesch came up as a player that the Tampa Bay Rays could potentially be interested in. The belief was that the Detroit Tigers could make him available, as it was thought that they may not even offer Boesch arbitration prior to the deadline. In the end, Boesch ended up signing a deal worth $2.3Million with the Tigers for the 2013 season. However, he was released earlier today by the Tigers, and may become a free agent.

As such, he may once again be on the Rays radar. With the Rays still potentially looking for a fourth outfielder, Boesch could be a potential low risk candidate for that position. He has had big league success, including a solid 2011 where he produced a .283/.341/.799 batting line, good for an OPS+ of 116. That year, he had 25 doubles and 16 home runs, showing a bit of pop in his bat. Boesch struggled in 2012, batting at only a .240/.286/.372 rate with 22 doubles and 12 home runs with 33 more plate appearances. This decline may have been due to injury, as it was felt that Boesch had been dealing with the lingering effects of a torn thumb ligament.

Already, the Tigers have been fielding inquiries on his availability. According to reports, approximately half a dozen teams have already probed the Tigers’ as to their asking price; however, nothing appears to be eminent. Amongst the teams thought to be interested are the Mariners (who had interest in acquiring Boesch in December), the Red Sox, the Mets, the Yankees and the Astros. While the Mariners may not be as likely to acquire Boesch, given the plethora of corner outfield types they have acquired this offseason, the other four teams have a definite need for outfield help.

Although there is likely to be competition for Boesch, the asking price may end up not being that significant. The Tigers may only be looking for a lower tier prospect, or even the equivocal ‘Player to be Named Later’. With Boesch being a part of the waiver process, the Rays would likely need to trade for him to secure his services.

Brennan Boesch may be a potential bounce back candidate, and he fits the profile of the type of player the Rays target. Although Boesch is a left-handed hitter and the Rays are really looking for a right-handed bat, Boesch actually has a reverse split for his career (.767 OPS versus lefties compared to .717 against righties) and could be a possibility to platoon with James Loney. Boesch has never player first base in his career, although he is a good target at 6’3″, 235, but that doesn’t make an enormous difference because the Rays could move other players around to accomodate him, with say Luke Scott or Kelly Johnson playing first base with Boesch in the outfield or at DH.

Boesch could be an interesting platoon player for the Rays, but one factor to consider is not just what the Tigers will be asking for in exchange for Boesch from whichever team claims him off waivers but also his salary, $2.3Million. That’s not that much money even for the Rays, but would they be willing to commit that to a player who might be a fringe-starter at best and also carries quite a bit of risk? The scenario that would make the Rays most likely to go after Boesch would be if he passes through waivers unclaimed and the team signing him would only have to pay him the league minimum with the Tigers responsible for his salary. If that falls into place, Boesch could end up becoming another under-the-radar player that vastly outperforms expectations after joining the the Rays.