Tampa Bay Rays Add to Infield Depth, Bring Back Jayson Nix

By Robbie Knopf

Jayson Nix signed a minor league contract with the Tampa Bay Rays in September. Now, after a brief stint with the Philadelphia Phillies, he is back. Chris Cotillo reports that the Rays have re-signed Nix to a minor league contract and will head to Triple-A Durham. In all likelihood, this is a depth signing, but it could get a little more interesting than that.

With Ben Zobrist out, the Tampa Bay Rays do not have an abundance of infield options. Jayson Nix gives them another. In 1417 major league plate appearances, Nix has just a .216/.288/.354 line, but he stands out for his ability to hit left-handed pitching (.702 OPS), solid speed (13 stolen bases in 14 attempts in 2013), and strong defense at a variety of positions. Nix is a plus defender at second base and his glovework at shortstop trails only Yunel Escobar on the Rays’ current 25-man roster. He also has experience at third base and both corner outfield spots. Cole Figueroa is on the roster for now, but if the Rays decide that they don’t want him languishing on the bench, Nix could be an alternative.

The most interesting way to look at this signing, though, is that suddenly the Rays have a player in line to replace Logan Forsythe on the major league roster. The way Forsythe has been slumping, the Rays could elect to send him to Triple-A and bring up Jayson Nix to fill his spot, especially with Zobrist comes back. Nix would certainly not be an everyday starter against left-handed pitching like the Rays have tried–and failed–to do with Forsythe, but he could be the third bench option behind Sean Rodriguez and Brandon Guyer. While Nix plays a relatively minor role on the Rays’ roster, Forsythe could be down at Durham righting himself at the plate. Forsythe clearly has more long-term upside than Nix, but their ability to contribute to the major league team right now is about even. The Rays would not be losing much through this maneuver, but have something to gain if Forsythe can get on track.

It is always nice to have depth, and Jayson Nix gives the Rays that and something more. It will be interesting to see whether he replaces Cole Figueroa on the roster in the short-term and whether he takes Sean Rodriguez’s spot when Ben Zobrist returns.