When it was first reported that the Tampa Bay Rays were interested in Asdrubal Cabrera, it seems crazy. Then, just a day later, the Rays actually signed him and it turned out to be a harbinger of the Ben Zobrist trade. Before we knew it, Colby Rasmus‘ name had been connected to the Rays as well and we wondered whether more chaos was in store.
Instead, Rasmus is officially heading elsewhere. He has agreed to a one-year, $8 million contract with the Houston Astros, netting just above the $7.5 million that the Rays gave Cabrera. Rasmus is a fascinating reclamation project thanks to his power as a centerfielder and the strong defense he showed prior to 2014, but that is no longer of the Rays’ concern.
At the end of the day, Colby Rasmus never fit with the Rays as well as Cabrera did. We can make the parallel between the Cabrera signing preceding the Zobrist deal and a move for Rasmus pushing David DeJesus out the door, but DeJesus is a trade candidate even without another move.
Colby Rasmus would likely make the Rays a better team right now. A defensive outfield of Rasmus, Desmond Jennings, and Kevin Kiermaier from left to right would be spectacular, and Rasmus would also give the Rays the type of power for which their team is still searching. On the other hand, a trade for Rasmus would put Steven Souza in a difficult situation.
Is Souza going to start the 2015 season in the major leagues? That is one of the biggest questions surrounding the Rays right now, but it truly does not affect the team’s moves to a significant extent. If Souza is not ready now, he will be ready by June–that seems like something everyone can agree upon. Why should the Rays sign an outfielder who might not have a roster spot on their team in a few months?
If their acquisition of Souza as part of the Wil Myers trade did not say enough, the Rays further demonstrated their belief in Souza by letting Colby Rasmus sign with Houston. They believe that Souza can be a major part of their future, and they will give him every opportunity to get there. At the same time, though, Rasmus’ agreement with the Astros does not guarantee Souza’s Opening Day roster spot no matter how you slice it.
The Rays’ overabundance of outfielders does not exist the same way it did last year with Myers, Matt Joyce, and Sean Rodriguez all set to don different uniforms. Even so, the Rays want to see more of Kevin Kiermaier, Brandon Guyer, and maybe even DeJesus alongside Desmond Jennings next season. 2015 will be Souza’s chance to make an impression, but those other players are looking to make their presence felt more as well.
There are so many questions, and the Rays have a chance to begin answering them. Kiermaier and Guyer are both looking to prove that they can play every day, with Kiermaier needing to show his worth versus left-handed pitching while Guyer hopes to address his health and ability against righties. An open left field spot until Souza arrives would represent chances for both of them.
DeJesus, on the other hand, may be a marked man in Tampa Bay. He will make $5 million in 2015 plus at least a $1 million buyout in 2016, and the Rays do not want to pay him that to sit on the bench. At the same time, however, there is a reason that the Rays signed DeJesus to a two-year deal with a third year option. They have always liked him and saw when he was healthy last season how valuable he can be.
Especially if the Rays don’t get a good trade offer for DeJesus, he deserves an opportunity to redeem himself after his injury-prone 2014. If he stays on the field for a few months and plays the way he is capable, his value will only go up. The Rays could still use him too as he may be their best leadoff option against right-handed pitching.
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If DeJesus needs to be traded when Steven Souza is ready, so be it. Until then, though, he can help their team by starting against right-handed pitching and just might be able to last if someone gets injured. While DeJesus’ injury from last year is a point against keeping him, he also represents great insurance for John Jaso at DH. At the very least, it may be worthwhile for the Rays to see what their team looks like when June rolls around.
The Tampa Bay Rays’ outfield picture will certainly be less stable next season with Colby Rasmus not in the fold, but that is not a bad thing. They are excited to see what Steven Souza can give them, and the rest of the plate appearances that Rasmus would have made will be filled by other players who deserve further chances. The Rays are attempting to figure out the direction in which their franchise is heading, and proceeding without Rasmus was the best way to do that.