As J.J. pointed out on Friday, following the unexpected trade of infielder Logan Forsythe, the Tampa Bay Rays have a lot to figure out over the next couple of weeks as they head into Spring Training. Piggybacking on the aforementioned piece, what follows are some other options for Erik Neander and the Rays to fill the hole at second.
According to Rays Radio Blog, Neander will use the next couple of weeks to sort out the situation:
Neander says the organization will use the next couple of weeks for clarity in determining the team’s second base situation, looking at internal and external options. Among the internal options are Tim Beckham, Nick Franklin and Daniel Robertson, or Brad Miller, if the team is to acquire one of the available free agent bats still available that plays first base.
How might the Rays solve this quandary?
It appears, at the moment, the plan is to move Brad Miller over to second base from first, where last season he was shifted from shortstop. Miller is athletic enough to play shortstop, and a transition to second base likely would not be a problem.
If they plan to go in this direction, Tampa Bay could sign one of the remaining right-handed free agent first baseman such as Mike Napoli, Mark Reynolds, or Chris Carter. Or, as Marc Topkin (Tampa Bay Times) suggested, they could actually go get two first-base types, one that hits from each side, creating platoon advantages:
…they could actually go get two first-base types, one that hits from each side, creating platoon advantages, a more potent bench and — depending on who — potentially a better glove. Among lefties, think Brandon Moss, the return of Logan Morrison (recovering from wrist surgery) or maybe Pedro Alvarez.
Prior to the Forsythe trade, Beckham was expected to get most of his at-bats against left-handed pitching, after slashing .259 BA/.302 OBP/.457 SLG/.759 OPS/105 wRC+ in 216 plate appearances against southpaws. However, there is a thought that he could play a much larger role, given the team’s need up the middle.
Be that as it may, his career .218 BA/.275 OBP/.408 SLG/.683 OPS/85 wRC+ line against right-handed pitching, paired with the fact that he makes far too many mental (and base running) gaffes, is likely enough to keep Beckham in a bench depth role.
Acquired in the 2014 trade of David Price, Franklin was expected to get the bulk of the playing time in a platoon with Forsythe heading into the 2015 season. Yet as fate would have it, Franklin strained his oblique at the end of Spring Training, and started the season on the disabled list. The switch hitting Franklin played well when he was able to get on the field last season, slashing .270 BA/.328 OBP/.443 SLG/.771 OPS with six home runs in 60 games.
He again could have a bead on the second base job in 2017, especially against right-handed pitchers, as he slashed .285 BA/.347 OBP/.482 SLG/.829 OPS in 152 plate appearances against righties last season. To his credit, his promising rookie campaign in 2013 suggests Franklin’s success is not a fluke.
Robertson owned a 110 wRC+ over 511 plate appearances last season with Triple-A Durham, posting an impressive 11.4% walk rate, and a 19.6% strikeout rate. Things were not always peachy with Robertson though.
Through the first 82 games of the season, the infielder was staked with a lackluster .648 OPS, a .075 ISO, and just 16 extra base hits in 348 plate appearances — the unfortunate result of a hamate bone fracture the previous season. Robertson was able to bounce back after working with hitting coach Chad Mottola, and finished the year with an .860 OPS, a .147 ISO, and 13 extra base hits over 36 games (163 PA).
Adames probably will not crack the Opening Day roster, but that has more to do the team’s desire for an extra year of control — while trying to avoid Super-2 status — than it has with his perceived readiness.
Many within the organization are very high on Adames, including Rays farm director Mitch Lukevics:
His attitude, his aptitude, his work ethic — all the intangibles make Willy Adames stand out along with his skill. His ability to field a ground ball, to throw a baseball, to hit a baseball makes him a very unique player.
Adames, 21, tore up the Southern League for the Rays Double-A affiliate Montgomery Biscuits, slashing .274 BA/.372 OBP/.430 SLG/.802 OPS/134 wRC+ with 11 homers and 57 RBI.
Still, his brief October-November stint in the Dominican League, where he hit .167 in 10 games, reinforces the idea that a few months with Triple-A Durham may be needed.
The trade of Forsythe could be a make or break moment in the 2017 season before the first pitch is even thrown. Whatever the case, Neander and company will need to make the right decision, and fast, if the Rays are to be a threat in the AL East once again. In the words of Topkin, one thing for sure, the Rays will consider all options.
— The Rays have not yet announced the signing of outfielder Colby Rasmus, although that’s not due to any issues with his physical, tweeted Topkin.
Hearing no problems with Rasmus physical but deal with #Rays may not be announced until early next week now.
— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) January 27, 2017
It is likely that the team is waiting to sort out a roster move before making the Rasmus deal official. Per Topkin, the most likely options to open a 40-man roster spot are trading RHP Erasmo Ramirez, ditching either reliever RHP Eddie Gamboa or Ryan Garton, or dropping OF Jason Coats.
— Four Rays prospects made the MLB Pipeline Top 100 list:
21: INF Willy Adames
31: RHP Brent Honeywell
33: RHP Jose De Leon
76: INF/OF Jake Bauers
Jason Hanselman (The Process Report) took an exhaustive look at the fantastic four, and it is worth your while to read up!
— While in New York on other city business, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman went directly to Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred with his push to keep the Rays in the Sunshine City with a new stadium at the Tropicana Field site.