The Tampa Bay Rays have been disappointing this season, and that has been in a large part due to their offense. Currently they sit at 23rd in baseball in runs scored with 555, and they are 19th in OPS at .686. As such, the Rays could try to upgrade their offense this offseason. Would a trade for Evan Gattis of the Atlanta Braves make sense?
Gattis has primarily played catcher this year, appearing in 91 games there. He does have some outfield experience as he played 48 games in left field in 2013. However, Gattis is a well below-average defender at both positions due to a lack of athleticism. He is much better suited as a DH, but the Braves are in the NL and thus are forced to put him in the field to get his potent bat in the lineup. Because of his poor defense the Braves could look into dealing him to an AL team this offseason, where he would not have to be a liability in the field.
The reasoning behind the Rays acquiring Gattis would be simple; he is a cheap, controllable bat. In his 2013 rookie season, Gattis hit a solid .243/.291/.480 with 21 home runs, good for a 109 wRC+. This season he has been even better, slashing .270/.325/.507 with 22 homers and a 131 wRC+ in 102 games. Gattis would be a great addition to the Rays’ lineup thanks to his power, something the Rays have severely lacked this year (their .368 slugging percentage ranks 25th in the league). Also, Rays’ DHs have hit a combined .237/.325/.402 this year- not an awful mark, but one that Gattis would improve. Gattis would further benefit the Rays because he is under control through the 2018 season. In 2015 he will make the league minimum salary, and then from 2016-2018 he will be under team control via arbitration. That is a big deal for the cost-constrained Rays.
The biggest drawback of acquiring Gattis would be committing the DH spot to one player. The Rays have been using the DH on a rotating basis, and it has been beneficial to them. By doing so they can give players half-days off without taking their bat out of the lineup, and they can also use the DH spot to ensure they get the best matchups possible against the opposing pitcher. That is a definitely disadvantage to acquiring Gattis, however the allure of adding his bat outweighs this negative aspect. Also acquiring Gattis could give the Rays some extra positional flexibility in the sense that he is passable at catcher. Even if he only played there in 20 games, having a 3rd player that can catch on occasion would give the Rays some additional flexibility to pinch-hit for their catchers.
It would will take a decent amount to acquire Gattis, but the good news for the Rays is that the Braves would likely target outfielders in a trade. Braves’ outfielders Justin Upton and Jason Heyward are both free agents after the 2015 season, and B.J. Upton has continued to struggle mightily with the bat. Desmond Jennings would certainly appeal to the Braves, as he is controlled through the 2017 season, and Kevin Kiermaier would also interest them. Centering a Gattis deal around Jennings or Kiermaier would make sense for the Rays, as they have a plethora of outfield depth to deal from.
All-in-all, it seems that dealing for Gattis would make plenty of sense for the Rays. He is a cost-controlled player with a potent bat, something that the Rays would love to have. Also, they could deal from their outfield depth to acquire him- something that seems likely even if it is not in a trade for Gattis. He is just one way the Rays could look to upgrade their team this offseason, but don’t be surpsied to see the Rays make a push for Evan Gattis.