Insider: Rays Acquire Drew Sutton

With Jeff Keppinger (foot/ankle) likely becoming the 10th Tampa Bay Ray to hit the disabled list this season, Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman was forced to make another trade in the name of depth. Just a day after acquiring infielder Drew Sutton from the Atlanta Braves for cash considerations, the Pittsburgh Pirates traded him to the Rays this afternoon for a player to be named later. Although no corresponding moves have been announced, Sutton is expected to be added to the active roster which will require subsequent movement on both the 25 and 40-man roster.

Sutton was drafted by the Houston Astros in the 15th round of the 2004 amateur draft. Current Rays’ VP Gerry Hunsicker was the Astros general manger at the time and also drafted Ben Zobrist in the same class. The two infielders became friends and even worked out together with the same swing coach that Zobrist partially credits for his breakout. The similarities between the two made me wonder aloud about Sutton having a Zobrist-like career path.

Sutton has spent the better part of the last few seasons in Triple-A where he hit .275/.379/.416. This offseason he signed with the Atlanta Braves and was hitting .270/.374/.372 in 164 plate appearances for their Triple-A affiliate prior to his trades to Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay. He does have limited major-league experience, producing a slash line of .258/.322/.403 in 178 plate appearances spanning three seasons and three organizations (Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians, and Boston Red Sox).

A switch-hitter, Sutton always shown the ability to take walks and has flashed above-average power for a middle infielder. After stealing 20 bases in three consecutive seasons (2006-2008) his stolen base total has dropped considerably. That said, it is unknown if that is due to a decline in skill or organizational philosophy. If it was the latter, expect the Rays to utilize whatever speed he may have.

Defensively, the 28-year-old gives skipper Joe Maddon another flexible option with multi-position capability. Similar to Zobrist, he can play all four infield positions and has experience in the corner outfield. A shortstop in college, he has spent the bulk of his time at second base as a professional. He will likely see time all over the diamond for the Rays, but could settle into a job-sharing role with Will Rhymes at the keystone position.

Like Rich Thompson, Sutton’s time in Tampa Bay is anything but guaranteed. In the past, I have openly campaigned for the Rays to at least take a look at Sutton and that is where we are at. While the current set of circumstances is less than fortunate, a pairing of his abilities and the team’s current needs could forge a fruitful relationship.