If you had said before the season that Sean Rodriguez would be one of the Tampa Bay Rays’ most proficient power hitters, you probably would have been laughed at. But that’s what it came to for the Rays in 2014, as Rodriguez’s .443 slugging percentage was second on the team behind the equally surprising Kevin Kiermaier. It was encouraging to see Rodriguez finally tap into his raw power, but, that said, there were still plenty of negatives to his season.
While Rodriguez’s power output was the highest of his career, he hit just .211 and got on base at a .258 clip, both of which were career-lows over a full season. If Rodriguez were to keep that up, his chances of repeating his power numbers are slim. Also, Rodriguez’s 3.9% walk rate was a career-low and not an encouraging number, and his 25.5% strikeout rate was too high. However, Rodriguez did have just a .235 BABIP, meaning his batting average is likely to go up as he suffers less bad luck. That gives Rodriguez some intrigue, as you have to wonder if he can hit for even more power as his batting average rises.
Another negative was that Rodriguez regressed against lefties. In his career, Rodriguez has hit .247/.342/.404 against lefties, which has been more than respectable in a lefty-masher utility man role. This year, though, Rodriguez hit just .221/.295/.434 against lefties. While that line could be a product of his small 140 plate appearance sample size against southpaws, you never want your lefty-masher to stop hitting lefties even over as small sample size.
Additionally, Rodriguez once again proved value in his ability to play multiple positions. Over the course of the season, he appeared at every infield position on top of left field. The Rays love versatility, and Rodriguez certainly brings that to the table.
All in all, Rodriguez finishes 2014 with more reason for optimism than has been the case the past few years thanks to his surprising power output and ability to play multiple positions. That said, Rodriguez has likely seen his last game as a Ray. Last offseason, the Rays acquired Logan Forsythe, and at the very least, he is a lefty-mashing utility man who has the potential to be a starter. Then this summer, the Rays acquired Nick Franklin, and he figures to factor into the Rays’ roster plans as a utility man as well.
Tim Beckham is also waiting in the wings, and he seems similar enough to Rodriguez in that he hits lefties well, can play multiple infield positions, and has some raw power. The next Sean Rodriguez is likely already on the Rays’ 40-man roster. Of course, this all goes without saying that the Rays will be returning incumbent middle infielders Yunel Escobar and Ben Zobrist. Simply put, there is no longer any space for Rodriguez.
Whereas Rodriguez might have been simply a non-tender candidate in 2013, he showed enough ability to draw some trade interest this offseason. He won’t bring back anything too exciting in return, especially given that he is a free agent after he 2015 season. But he now has enough value to where he could bring in a reclamation project type of player or a low minors prospect with some upside.
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Sean Rodriguez has been a nice piece of the Rays club for the past few years, but his time with the team could be coming to an end. Though 2014 was possibly his most encouraging season in his Rays tenure, the team simply has too many players with more upside than him. Rodriguez has been on the fringes of the Rays’ roster for years, and this could finally be the time where he cannot find a way to stick around with the club any longer.