In a move that many fans may describe as “addition by subtraction,” the Tampa Bay Rays have acquired first baseman/left fielder Marc Krauss from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in exchange for right-hander Kyle Winkler. The Rays had an open spot on their 40-man roster to accommodate Krauss, but the make room for him on the active roster, they optioned Nick Franklin to Triple-A Durham.
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Krauss is unimpressive, but it still may have made sense for the Rays to acquire a player like him a few weeks ago. The 27 year old has a questionable big league track record, hitting to just a .194/.268/.335 line (69 OPS+), but he put up strong results in the minor leagues thanks to good plate discipline and solid power. Ultimate Zone Rating and Defensive Runs Saved agree that Krauss has been a below-average defender at first base and right field in his 130 big leagues games, but they both think that he is decent or better in left field.
The presence of Krauss gives the Rays a player with some actual experience at first base who allows them to move Jake Elmore and Nick Franklin into better situations. Elmore can go back to being a utility player, a role in which he was thriving earlier in the year, while Franklin will head to Triple-A Durham. Franklin hit to just a .139/.205/.250 line (26 OPS+) in his 78 big league plate appearances this season, but Rays Vice President of Baseball Operations Erik Neander was still quite positive in his remarks about him.
"“Nick’s oblique injury in spring training interrupted his preparation for the season, and when he returned, our team’s injuries forced him to learn a new position on the fly,” said Neander. “He’s young and talented and a big part of our future. Our goal is to make sure he is able to continue developing and get back on track, and we believe consistent playing time is the best way to achieve that.”"
As we have discussed in detail, Franklin was a disaster this season but hasn’t lost his talent and deserves a chance to gather himself. The fact that his timing was off and his bat was slow does not mean that he is unfixable, nor is he anywhere near as bad as he was at his worst. The Rays like the skills he brings to the table now, just like they have since before they acquired him, and they are confident that he will be just fine in a few months or at least by next season.
Back to Krauss, he could easily get designated for assignment in a week or so, but you always hope that the Rays have an adjustment in mind for a guy like him. They have given two minor league veterans their first chances at extended big league time this season, and while Allan Dykstra was a disaster, Joey Butler has given this team a huge lift. Krauss has a little bit more big league time and the chances are that he will not contribute much, but especially in a short period of time, he may be able to give the Rays a few big hits. The Rays would be happy if he turned into the next Brandon Allen or Jerry Sands.
Winkler was signed by the Rays as a minor league free agent in May, and it is nifty for the Rays that they were able to turn their low-risk investment in him into Krauss, a usable big league player. Winkler pitched very well for the Montgomery Biscuits before looking more questionable in his brief stint with the Durham Bulls, and he has some chance of becoming a middle reliever. The Rays thought little enough of him that they sent him back to Montgomery, but apparently the Angels liked him a little bit more.
Acquiring Marc Krauss doesn’t change much for the Tampa Bay Rays, but it was nice for them to get a (closer to) actual first baseman, shift Elmore into a utility role, and move Franklin back to Triple-A. The move can’t really hurt the Rays given how badly Franklin and recently Elmore were playing at first base, and Krauss may be able to make an impact in some small way.