Now that Ben Zobrist and Sean Rodriguez are gone, the Tampa Bay Rays lacking in the versatility department. Nick Franklin and Logan Forsythe are the only players on the team that are capable of playing both the infield and outfield, and both have only limited experience in that latter spot. Will the Rays be OK regardless? Probably. But it had to be nice for them to sign a player in Jake Elmore who is as versatile as they have ever seen.
The Rays announced earlier today that they had agreed to terms with Elmore to a minor league contract. Elmore, who will turn 28 in June, has logged big league time the last three seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Houston Astros, and Cincinnati Reds. If you don’t consider him well-traveled enough, he has also spent time with the Chicago White Sox, Oakland Athletics, and Pittsburgh Pirates since November of 2013.
Elmore’s most notable moments as a big leaguer came during his time with the Astros. In 136 plate appearances for the team, he hit to a .242/.313/.325 line (79 OPS+), not hitting for much power but delivering good plate discipline and solid performance against left-handed pitching. And on August 19th, he entered the record books.
When catcher Carlos Carporan left with an injury in the third inning of the Astros’ game against the Texas Rangers, it was Jake Elmore, the natural middle infielder, who came in to be the new backstop. The score was already 11-1 Texas, so Elmore didn’t have to worry about the Rangers stealing bases, which certainly helped him. Even so, it is quite impressive that he allowed no passed balls and made no errors.
Then, in the 8th inning, the Astros brought in Elmore to pitch, with Jason Castro, who had been their designated hitter, becoming the new catcher. What did Elmore do? He tossed a 1-2-3 frame to finish a triumphant night for him amid the Astros’ disastrous game. He also went 1 for 2 with a walk at the plate.
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In that 2013 season, Elmore played all ten positions. As we know, that included pitcher and catcher, and despite his mediocre hitting, he even received time at designated hitter. That is the sort of positional flexibility that not even Zobrist and Rodriguez can match. Yes, Rodriguez was always the Rays’ emergency catcher, but it was Elmore who actually showed his team enough–and found the right set of circumstances–to be put into a game.
Will Jake Elmore’s versatility be enough for him to make the Rays’ roster? That is something that we will talk more about tomorrow. If he heads to Triple-A, though, it isn’t difficult to imagine him seeing some time with the big league club at some point. After all, the Rays value positional flexibility more than anyone else, and Elmore is a champion in that regard.