Rays Rumors

Should the Tampa Bay Rays Trade Desmond Jennings?

By Dan Herrejon

Matt Silverman has a lot of important decisions this offseason as a result of the overall disappointing year by the Tampa Bay Rays. On his list will be adding a bat, shedding payroll while keeping the team competitive, and figuring out what to do with a crowded outfield. With that in mind, the fate of Desmond Jennings will be a major piece of his agenda.

Jennings could quite possibly be trade bait this winter. Across the board, his stats went down in 2014, and he also missed significant time due to injury. Is this the right time to deal him away? The old adage in sports is that it is better to trade a player one year too early than one year too late. With the drop off in production, did the Rays wait one year too long?

One thing for certain about Jennings is his days as a leadoff hitter should be done. He simply does not get on base as often as an organization needs from a bona fide leadoff man. His OBP in 2014 was .319, which won’t cut it for a leadoff man at the big league level. Jennings also strikes out too much, 108 times last year in 479 at bats, to seriously be considered for the top of the order. As he struggled last year, Joe Maddon continued to push him further down the lineup.

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In the field,  Jennings is certainly more than capable. The problem is that after Jennings went down last August with his knee injury, Kevin Kiermaier covered more ground and made more plays than Jennings. Granted, Kiermaier made more errors than Jennings, but at least part of that is that because he covered more ground and attempted to make plays on balls that Jennings had no chance on. One season is a small size, but in 26 less games, Keirmaier had more than twice the assists than Jennings. It seems that if the energy and fire that Kiermaier plays with can be toned down to some degree, he would be an even better defender. Despite Jennings’ plays good defense in center, Kiermaier has established himself as a more-than-reasonable alternative.

Keep in mind that when the Rays lost B.J. Upton to free agency, no one was supposed to worry because Desmond Jennings was waiting in the wings. Despite surpassing a .250 batting average only once in his last five years, Upton averaged 39 stolen bases a season over that time. In the last three years, despite a comparable OBP to Upton, Jennings is averaging only 22 stolen bases per year. Jennings has not been using his speed to his advantage, and every year that continues, you have get more skeptical about his ability to do so in the future.

Even though his inability to reach his ceiling has been disappointing, Desmond Jennings has trade value, and he is under control for three more seasons. With Kiermaier ready to take over the centerfield job and depth present behind him, the Rays can cash in on Jennings’ control and the intrigue other teams have still have about him. If they wait another year and he fails to improve, his value would only drop even further. Jennings has been a nice piece for the Rays, but it is time to move on and deal him away this offseason.