Since the last Hot Stove article the Tampa Bay Rays have re-signed a few pieces and nabbed a legitimate bat from the free-agent market. With only five days until pitchers and catchers report the season is just around the palm tree. Spring Training is coming and so is the wonderful sound of metal cleats on concrete.
The Rays will bring back reliever Kyle Farnsworth and designated hitter Luke Scott. Farnsworth, 36, is quite the seasoned veteran, and will play his third season with Tampa Bay and the 14th season of his career.
Farnsworth pitched beyond expectation in 2011, posting a 2.18 ERA and 25 saves in 57 innings.
But in 2012 injuries hampered the tall reliever and he pitched only 27 innings while posting six losses. If healthy, Farnsworth can be a dominant force out of the bullpen and the Rays will need his arm.
Luke Scott will look to redeem himself after a down season which featured two trips to the disabled list and the most memorable part of his first season with Tampa Bay was hitting a homerun in Cleveland to break an 0-45 streak at the plate. Like Farnsworth, when healthy, Scott can be a power bat. However, he is on the backside of his career and entering his age-34 season. Between 2008-10 Scott averaged 25 homers per year with Baltimore, but injuries are the biggest worry with Scott. The Rays bought out Scott’s original contract for $1 million, instead of paying him $6 million in 2013. He signed a one-year deal worth $2.75 million for 2013.
The Rays signed free-agent Kelly Johnson, 30, to platoon and possibly overtake the second base position. Johnson has averaged 21 homeruns over the last three seasons and has played consistently, averaging 148 games in the same time frame. The former member of Blue Jays, Diamondbacks, and Braves will be expected to play in the outfield as well depending on the matchup.
Subsequently, the Rays designated two players for assignment: infielders Reid Brignac and Elliot Johnson. The moves effectively end both of their careers with Tampa Bay and getting rid of Elliot Johnson is quite a surprise. He played in 123 games and although his production wasn’t stellar he made up for it with heart and effort. EJ was becoming a fan-favorite, but he mentioned he was not surprised at being designated after learning of the Kelly Johnson signing. Brignac’s bat never caught up with major league pitching.
These re-signings and the addition of Kelly Johnson may seem mundane to fans in other markets but these are classic Andrew Friedman moves that will prove crucial during the season. Kelly Johnson is an upgrade over Sean Rodriguez, Brignac and Elliot Johnson and they will bring back Luke Scott, for much cheaper.
Also, two of the minor leaguers who received invites to Spring Training are outfielder Wil Myers and first baseman Leslie Anderson. Myers, 22, is touted as the next best rookie outfielder but Anderson, 30, hit .309 with 14 homers and 56 RBI while with Triple-A Durham last season. The Cuban first baseman could be called up to the Show if James Loney suffers an injury.
The season is just around the corner and the Rays have retooled and restocked their lineup in anticipation of another wild season in the American League East.