Grading the Tampa Bay Rays’ Free Agent Signings

By David Egbert

Hi, I’m David Egbert and you may recognize me from my frequent comments to Rays Colored Glasses. I’m excited to join the RCG staff and share some of my thoughts about baseball and the Rays. I’ve been following the game for over 60 years and I still love it. So, let’s get started.

We are almost at the halfway point of the season and it’s time to grade the new guys that Andrew Friedman and the Rays hves brought on board. The list of newbies numbers five and let’s review how they have done so far.

Roberto Hernandez: Aside from one stellar start against the hapless Marlins, Hernandez hasn’t contributed much. Brought in as a gap between Shields and the high level prospects at AAA, he was billed as an innings eater and a groundball pitcher. He hasn’t been either one. In his 14 starts, he has given up 14 homers and is averaging less than 6 innings a start.  Throw in 2 loses for every win and 5 dollar ERA and he hasn’t cut the mustard. GRADE: D+

Jamey Wright: This guy comes as advertised and after 18 years and 10 teams, he knows how to pitch. He has been mostly a low-leverage pitcher but he has been extremely effective, joining Joel Peralta and Alex Torres as the three most consistent pitchers for the Rays out of the bullpen all season. GRADE: B 

James Loney: Wow, what a find. After a slow start, he has just raked. He has slowed down a bit from his helium numbers of .350 but he’s on track to hit his career line of 13 home runs, 80 RBIs and a .280 average and quite possibly surpass it. He makes you forget about the dozens of bad swings from Carlos Pena last year. Provides great defense and is a good guy. He may not be your prototypical power-hitting first baseman but how could you not take him? GRADE: A

Kelly Johnson: Let me say it again. Wow, what a find. While he has slowed down of late, this guy is on a track to exceed his career line of 20 home runs and 70 RBIs and hit well enough to be the Rays’ 3rd hitter in the lineup for a time. He has been versatile, playing left field regularly and well (6 outfield assists!) and even playing third base and first base for the first time in his MLB career in addition to his natural second base. The addition of Wil Myers to the Rays’ roster will make getting him into the lineup a little more complicated for Joe Maddon, but the Rays will find a way to get him the at-bats he deserves after seeing how good he can be. GRADE: B+

Yunel Escobar: You sure can’t argue with his fielding and overall he has given the Rays their best starting shortstop in years. His hitting has been a work in progress, but he has improved significantly. At the beginning of the season, he was an automatic out, but his at bats of late have been much better and he is actually on line to hit his career line for home runs and RBIs. In addition, he doesn’t seem to have been a problem in the clubhouse or off the field. Based on his fielding alone, he gets a better than average grade, and if his bats could continue to come around, the trade to acquire him from the Marlins could look even better. GRADE: B 

And, of course, we have to finish this piece by grading Andrew. The years of having to look underneath the manure pile to find a pony has taught him well. We just have to close our eyes and forget about Pat Burrell! GRADE: B