From the moment the news broke that the Tampa Bay Rays had signed Asdrubal Cabrera, news outlets everywhere began speculating about whether the Rays will deal Ben Zobrist. The day before the Cabrera signing, we also talked about whether a Cabrera signing could mean a trade of Yunel Escobar. However, while a trade of somebody seems as likely as ever, there is another player that has not yet been mentioned as a trade candidate: David DeJesus.
With Asdrubal Cabrera now in the fold, are there enough at-bats available for everyone on the Rays’ roster? It’s hard to say that there are. Ben Zobrist could play the outfield full-time and let Cabrera be the Rays’ starting second baseman, but suddenly Kevin Cash would be hard-pressed to get players like Nick Franklin into his lineup. With Cabrera now in the fold, here are examples of what the Rays’ lineup could look like against right-handed and left-handed pitching.
Now, as a basis of comparison, here are what the Rays’ lineups were going to look like before they signed Cabrera.
The biggest thing that Cabrera would bring to the Rays if they kept everybody is an improvement against left-handed pitching. It was a little scary that James Loney was lined up to bat fifth against lefties even though he did not hit well against them last season, and the presence of Cabrera allows the Rays to move him down to seventh against them.
On the other hand, Franklin was supposed to get at-bats at second base against right-handed pitching, and now those at-bats are set to go to Cabrera. In addition, neither Franklin nor Kevin Kiermaier will receive nearly as many opportunities to prove themselves against lefties. The Rays could make Franklin into a true backup infielder for a year in an attempt to get him acclimated to the major leagues, but the most likely scenario is that if the Rays make no more changes, Franklin will begin 2015 at Triple-A.
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Next season always seemed like it would be Franklin’s year to prove himself–why would they have acquired him in the David Price deal if they were going not to give him a chance? That brings up the need for an alternative to demoting him, and a glance at the lineups above brings up the idea of benching David DeJesus. The Rays would need to have a merry-go-round at DH, but that is something that could hypothetically work. Given that DeJesus will make $5 million in 2015, however, it would make much more sense to send DeJesus elsewhere.
We could compare a trade of David DeJesus to a trade of Yunel Escobar–the Rays would be clearing the exact same amount of payroll for next season, but losing DeJesus would have less of an impact on the team’s future. The reason for hesitation about trading Escobar is that the Rays are still trying to find a permanent solution at shortstop. On the other hand, the Rays’ young outfielders should easily be sufficient to make up for DeJesus’ absence.
Since he is a 35 year old coming off an injury-riddled year, clearly DeJesus’ trade value pales in comparison to Zobrist and even Escobar, but that is mostly irrelevant. The Rays have already upgraded their roster as they have gone from DeJesus to Cabrera, and now they can just worry about trading DeJesus for whatever they can get. The salary relief and available at-bats that would arise from a DeJesus deal would more than make up for getting nothing more than a low-level prospect in return for him.
The Tampa Bay Rays would have no problem dealing Ben Zobrist if they desired to do so, but his loss would put a major dent in their 2015 hopes. Escobar is another player that would attract interest, but the Rays would like to keep him to restore his trade value and keep their options open at the shortstop position. That brings us to DeJesus, whose loss would not affect the Rays’ present or future in any significant way. Maybe the Rays will get a trade offer for Zobrist or Escobar that blows them away, but otherwise, trading David DeJesus looks like their best course of action.