Rays News

The Rays Roster Impact Upon the Return of Matt Duffy

By David Egbert
May 10, 2017; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Matt Duffy (5) smiles as he looks on from the dugout during the eighth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field.Tampa Bay Rays defeated the Kansas City Royals 12-1. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
May 10, 2017; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Matt Duffy (5) smiles as he looks on from the dugout during the eighth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field.Tampa Bay Rays defeated the Kansas City Royals 12-1. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /
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In the coming weeks, the plan is for the Tampa Bay Rays to activate Matt Duffy off the DL and with that comes some lineup changes and a roster move. It is time to look at possible moves and how they will affect the team.

Sometime between now and the first of June, the Tampa Bay Rays will activate Matt Duffy from the disabled list. The move will have a domino impact on the Rays roster and lineup as a position player will have to be removed from the 25-man roster. Not only will that move be made but also the Rays will probably shuffle their starting lineup. How this will all work out remains to be seen but it is time to look at possible moves and how they will affect the team.

Before Matt Duffy’s injury, he was to be the Rays starting shortstop and played 18 games at that position for the Rays in 2016. The Rays were unhappy with Brad Miller’s defense at shortstop and Duffy, who played most of his major league career at third base, proved to be an upgrade at the position.

However, a 2016 heel injury that lingered into 2017 opened the door for Tim Beckham to play shortstop and he has done a solid job both offensively and defensively. However, manager Kevin Cash believes that you don’t lose your job due to injury and Beckham will go to the bench or play another position and Matt Duffy will play shortstop.

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In addition, a roster spot but must be cleared for Duffy to return. The candidates to be moved include Rickie Weeks Jr., Peter Bourjos and Daniel Robertson. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of moving each player.

Rickie Weeks Jr. is a veteran player who has had a successful 14-year career. Unfortunately, he is on the downside of that career and he is off to a horrible start.

Signed to a one-year deal as a right handed platoon first baseman/DH, he has a .212 batting average with 34 strikeouts in 66 at bats. The Rays like his veteran presence in the clubhouse but the last thing the team needs is someone with more strikeouts than hits and walks combined.

Peter Bourjos is a right handed hitting outfielder who was signed to fill in for Colby Rasmus, platoon in leftfield and back up centerfield. He has hit .196 in limited at bats. The Rays like his speed and defense but what his role is with Rasmus back in the lineup and Corey Dickerson playing more in the field is questionable.

The next and perhaps most obvious choice is Daniel Robertson. He made the team out of spring training as a backup infielder. He has played well in the field at three different positions. Robertson has not hit much but hitting is tough for a rookie coming off the bench and playing once or twice a week. The biggest factor here is that he has options left. It would not be surprising to see Robertson sent to Durham to get him some playing time at first base and the corner outfield positions.

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And finally we circle back to Tim Beckham. He is arguably the fourth best hitter on the team with a .264/.289/.457 slash line. In addition, he is hitting better against right handed pitchers. He is doing a good job in the field and appears to have his head in the right place. All of that adds up to an everyday middle infielder.

So what do you with Beckham? The easy choice is to option Robertson and make Beckham a utility infielder backing up Duffy and Miller.

However, that only gives him an occasional at bat and I don’t think the Rays’ spotty offense can afford to have Beckham on the bench most of the time. I think you have to drop Weeks and trust Beckham’s athletic ability enough to get him in the lineup at least four times a week at first base, second base, shortstop and DH. It puts Bourjos and Robertson on the bench but that’s the price you pay for more offense.

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The Rays never make things easy for themselves. They traded Matt Moore to San Francisco for Duffy, a 2014 Rookie of the Year candidate, and they will play him at shortstop. If the Rays want to turn this season around, they need more RBIs in clutch situations and less strikeouts. That probably means less at bats for Rickie Weeks and Peter Bourjos and more for Matt Duffy and Tim Beckham.

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