Replacing Forsythe Not An Easy Task, But Rays Have Options
Although the Rays’ front office was excited about a promising young starting pitcher, the decision to trade Forsythe wasn’t an easy one. He was the team’s leadoff hitter, a solid defender at second base, and a presence in the clubhouse.
“It’s a bittersweet day, though, as we part ways with Logan Forsythe in this trade.” Senior Vice President, Baseball Operations/General Manager Erik Neander said in a press statement. He’s not only a first-class player, but he’s also a great teammate and leader in the clubhouse. We will miss him, and we thank him for all he did as a Ray.”
Career With Rays:
The 2014 campaign was a tough one for him as he hit .223/.287/.329 with six homers in 336 plate appearances. Relegated to the right handed side of a platoon through much of his early career, he received his first shot at everyday playing time in 2015 after Nick Franklin strained an oblique at the end of spring training. He took full advantage of the opportunity hitting .281/.359/.444 and hit 17 homers.
In 2016, he was put into the leadoff spot on Kevin Cash‘s lineup, and hit .264/.333/.444 with a career high 20 home runs. He became the first middle infielder in franchise history with back-to-back seasons of at least 15 homers.
In his three years with the Rays he hit .262/.334/.419 (354-for-1,352) with 43 home runs and 146 RBI. Unfortunately, he was never able to get a taste of the good life with the Rays as they had a winning percentage of just .480 (225-261) during his three seasons.
Rays Will Continue To Try To Improve Roster In Coming Weeks:
Erik Neander spoke to the media via conference call, here are some of the highlights:
On if the team is finished with roster construction: We are going to take advantage of the remainder of the off-season to add to our 2017 club. We expect to have better answer to those (questions on replacement) in the coming weeks but we’ve had some of those conversations. We’re going to keep an open mind to just about every consideration that we have internally as well as any opportunity that comes up externally. It’s something at this point that I think we’ll have better clarity ove the next couple of weeks.
The deal is about the future, which isn’t that far off: Our eyes are constantly on where we are at in 2017 and also beyond that. And in this case the beyond that and the later the later is something I think is not too far off. This is what we do and I think it’s a big reason that we’ve been able to have the success that we’ve had over time and what we believe will get us to a point of being successful again.
Expectations for 2017 haven’t been altered: Our expectations on 2017 are still focused on being competitive and just about how we go about doing that it’s going to have to happen in a little different way than it would have been with Logan. We still believe we have a chance to compete and we’re going to use the rest of this off-season to put ourselves in the best position possible to do that.
Internal MLB Options To Replace Forsythe:
Franklin and Beckham could form a nice platoon at the position.
Last season Franklin, a switch hitter in name only, hit .270/.328/.443 with six homers in 191 plate appearances. He did most of his damage against right handed pitching (.828 OPS) while he struggled against left handed pitching (.554 OPS). In his career he has a .692 mark against right handed pitchers and a .573 mark against lefties.
Tim Beckham would make up the other half of the platoon. Overall in 2016 he hit .247/.300/.434 spanning 215 plate appearances. He posted a .792 OPS versus left handed pitching and a .688 versus righties. In his career he has a .759 OPS versus lefties and a .683 against righties.
Brad Miller, who made the switch from shortstop to first base last season, could slide back to the middle of the diamond and take over at second base. This would allow the club to explore the free agent market for an available first baseman. Last season Miller had his breakout season hitting .243/.304/.482 with a career high 30 homers.
25-Man Wild Card:
Matt Duffy has the athleticism to play second base if the Rays were to use one of their starting pitchers to acquire a starting shortstop. Duffy came up through the minors as a shortstop, moved to third in San Francisco, and is expected to take over the starting job with the Rays in 2017. Moving him to second base would devalue him a bit which would be a bit of a surprise.
Down On The Farm:
Daniel Robertson, acquired from the Oakland Athletics along with Boog Powell, for Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar spent the 2016 season with the Rays’ Triple-A affiliate Durham Bulls. There he hit just .259/.358/.356 with five homers in 601 plate appearances. He spent most of his time at shortstop (75 games) while also spending 21 games at second base and 20 at third. He will turn 23 on March 22 and the Rays will more than likely want to see a bit more power from him in Durham before bringing him up to the big league club.
Willy Adames, acquired with Nick Franklin and Drew Smyly from the Detroit Tigers, in exchange for David Price could be an option at some point during the season. His stock took off in 2016 as a 20 year old with the Rays’ Double-A affiliate he hit .274/.372/.430 in 568 plate appearances. He played all 112 games at shortstop and has never played a game at second base in his minor league career. If his bat continues to develop at Triple-A in 2017 he will find a way onto the Rays’ 25-man.
Casey Gillaspie could force his way into the conversation at first base if Miller is moved to second. He split his season between the Double-A Biscuits and the Triple-A Durham Bulls and hit an impressive .284/.388/.479 with 18 homers. He won’t be on the opening day roster but like Adames, he’ll be someone to keep an eye on in Triple-A.
In-House Wild Card:
Ryan Brett made his MLB debut with the Rays in 2014 and appeared in 3 games. Last spring he underwent Tommy John surgery on his elbow and missed the entire season. He was taken off the Rays’ 40-man roster in December but re-signed a minor league deal with the club. It’s doubtful after missing a year that the Rays would consider him as an option out of spring training, but if he progresses in Triple-A he could make his return to the club.
Free Agent Possibilities:
There remain plenty of free agent opportunities for the Rays depending on what route they pursue.
Chase Utley had a very good year with the Dodgers in 2016 hitting .252/.319/.396. Stephen Drew was productive in a part time role with the Washington Nationals hitting .266/.339/.524 with eight homers in 165 plate appearances. Odds are the Rays will take a pass on Utley and more than likely Drew as well. Both are left handed hitters that would be somewhat of a duplicate of Nick Franklin (who is out of options).
Chris Carter (30 years old) and Mike Napoli (35 years old) are the next duo. Both right handed batters bring power to the table. They both strike out a lot but they also draw a lot of walks. Carter hit a NL best 41 homers for the Milwaukee Brewers while Napoli hit 34 with the Cleveland Indians. Carter struck out a MLB leading 206 times while Napoli trailed by a dozen K’s with 194. Finally, Carter walked 76 times while Napoli walked 78 times.
Brandon Moss (33) and Adam Lind are the left handed group that the Rays could entertain signing one of them if they shifted Miller to second base. Moss spent the 2016 season with the St. Louis Cardinals and hit .225/.300/.484 with 28 homers. Lind spent the season with the Seattle Mariners where he hit .239/.286/.431 with 20 homers.
Free Agent Wild Card:
There’s also the familiar face of Logan Morrison who spent the 2016 season with the Rays and hit .238/.319/.414 with 14 homers. He injured his wrist in mid-September and had off-season surgery.
The Rays were rumored to be possibly shopping one of their starting pitchers. It more than likely wouldn’t be Chris Archer or Alex Cobb (value to low coming off injury), but Jake Odorizzi’s name was mentioned. Although Odorizzi could fetch a nice return I think the Rays’ are more than likely going to move Erasmo Ramirez prior to camp.
Trade Wild Card:
Where Ramirez or any other Rays pitcher goes or what the return is unknown at this time. The return could be prospects or it could be someone to fit into their roster in 2017. A player the Rays could target is Angels first baseman C.J. Cron.
The Rays should sign Mike Napoli to take over the primary first base duties. His right handed bat fits the Rays lineup perfectly. He brings power to the middle of the lineup. Maybe, most importantly, he brings a winning presence into the clubhouse.