Breaking News: Tampa Bay Rays Non-Tender Sam Fuld

By Robbie Knopf

We honestly did not think they would do it. Despite a season that saw him hit to just .199/.270/.267 line (53 OPS+) with less than spectacular defense, we were convinced that Sam Fuld‘s magic would somehow†keep him under contract for another year. Fuld was only projected for $900,000–even if he was not such a valuable player, how could the Rays turn him down? Why not bring him to spring training and see what happens after that? Instead, Fuld has been non-tendered and his run with the Rays may be coming to an end.

Fuld had his moments in Tampa Bay since arriving in the Matt Garza, electrifying us with his bat in April of 2011 and with his glove on so many occasions. But at the end of the day, we always knew he had his limitations and it was only a matter of time before his time in Tampa Bay came to an end. Fuld has never possessed much power, is not the best basestealer, and isn’t entirely comfortable playing centerfield. Add in the fact that he is a left-handed hitter on a Rays team that already has two lefty swingers in David DeJesus and Matt Joyce, and there simply was not room. Hopefully Fuld’s 2013 was an aberration and he can be better than that moving forward. But if Fuld does get the chance to prove that, it would likely come with another team.

Theoretically, Fuld could re-sign with the Rays for a lesser amount, but the Rays are not going to offer him a major league contract. Fuld is out of options, preventing the Rays from sending him to the minor leagues without exposing to waivers, so the only way he could possibly return is on a minor league deal with an invite to spring training. The Rays’ best offer would be say a $900,000 contract (what he was projected to make in arbitration) if he makes the team out of spring training, but you have to think that some team will sign Fuld and put him on their 40-man roster. In all probability, Sam Fuld’s sometimes ordinary and sometimes magical time with the Tampa Bay Rays has arrived to its conclusion.

Letting Fuld go has instant ramifications for the Rays’ roster. Kevin Kiermaier is likely the most qualified player to assume Fuld’s role, but he seems likely to start 2013 back in the minor leagues as the Rays hope to continue his development. The Rays’ likely fourth outfielder if they stay with internal options is Brandon Guyer, who played well at Triple-A Durham before a broken finger prevented him from seeing big league time in September. Guyer is a right-handed hitter who has always mashed left-handed pitching, and he could work his way into a platoon role for the Rays next season. Guyer is himself out of options for next year, and while the Rays will consider every angle the rest of the offseason, this could be Guyer’s chance to finally establish himself in the major leagues.