Rays Need to Find Some Relief for First Base
When Sean Rodriguez was designated last week by the Tampa Bay Rays, then dealt to the Pittsburgh Pirates, the move left a huge question mark on who might man the Rays First Base bag if something happens to James Loney?
This is not to suggest Loney will be hampered by injury or fall off his current offensive groove in 2015, but weirder things have happened under the tilted cap.
Early thoughts suggest that current Rays INF Logan Forsythe might be carrying an extra glove in his bag this spring, or quite possibly will be doing some additional reps this winter and during Spring Training learning the 1B nuances.
If you were wondering, Forsythe has lined-up at 1B once in his career and mans a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage on 1 career putout.
So with that small career sampling by Forsythe you might think the Rays would be better vested if they found another option at 1B, or at least someone with a little more experience scooping bad throws into outs.
First Base is not a spot you can master as you have to basically multi-task constantly throughout a game to keep runners, guard the line while also being a stop gap on the right side of the infield.
And I have not even ventured into the mental and physical bumps and bruises associated with those high throws, balls in the dirt that somehow bounce up and leave welts, bruises and nasty tell tales signs.
So I wonder if Ben Zobrist might be asked to take additional training and reps at 1B where he could bring another facet to his game and he does have a .983 career fielding percentage playing 1B 17 times in the past for the Rays.
There also could be a few guys outside the Rays system who could be viable candidate too.
Maybe recently non-tendered guys like Justin Smoak (Jays) or Gaby Sanchez (Pirates) who come into the fold with viable game experience, but might cost the Rays upwards of around $ 2 million plus a season.
Smoak might be in the Rays wheelhouse as a player who has experience at the position and has been a DH Smoak has had an up and down career since he was drafted in the First Round (11th pick) of the 2008 MLB Draft by the Texas Rangers. He was then traded to the Seattle Mariners, then after the 2014 season the M’s became disenchanted with him and he was claimed off waivers by the Toronto Blue Jays on October 28, 2014.
Seattle paid Smoak $ 2.6 million in 2015 during his first venture through the arbitration process. Even though Smoak’s career batting average of .224 and 74 career Hrs might not set your mind ablaze, his .995 career fielding average in 5 MLB seasons as a First Baseman plus the added bonus he could be a great bat off the bench (DH in 21 career games).
This current bit of fall from grace might benefit the Rays as well as offer Smoak a chance to re-establish himself as a MLB First Baseman.
Gaby Sanchez was a surprise non-tender by the Pirates, but you have to wonder if his 2014 offensive numbers were a fluke or a sign of aging. With the Pirates wanting to put versatile Josh Harrison at 3B bag, and move power hitter Pedro Alvarez to 1B for the 2015 season, Sanchez quickly found himself a man without a contract and team at the Arbitration Deadline
Like Smoak, Sanchez definitely has skills at First Base, but his offensive pedigree has taken a hit since he was dealt to the Pirates by the Miami Marlins 3 seasons ago. In his 5 years with the fish, Sanchez maintained a .243 average and showed power with 74 HR and 184 RBIs, but his 3 years with Pittsburgh he has maintained only a .241 mark with 18 HRs and 82 RBIs.
Sanchez main attribute might be his consistent glove and has a .995 fielding percentage mark.
There is also an outside chance that the Rays could just take a wait and see posture as the 2014 Triple-A All-Star Home Run Derby winner, Allan Dykstra (no relation to Lenny) could come in an further impress the Rays and quite possibly garner a utility and bench spot on the Rays 25-Man roster.
Darkening Dykstra’s chances might be his less than marvelous .981 fielding overage in 2014, and his career .986 mark might be fodder that he needs more seasoning before breaking the ceiling and making his MLB debut.
Even if the Rays do not have a clear leader in who might tag-in during the regular season for Loney at First base, there are many viable options and the off season is still young.
There is more than enough time for another name to surface, a trade to be formulated and quite possibly someone come to the Rays before the report to Port Charlotte, Fl in February.
Who knows, maybe Smoak or Sanchez could be there, or Dykstra could improve his glove skills and hit the cover off the ball.