The Rays made some noise this week in what has been one quiet month in the offseason.
Andrew Friedman signed a quartet of free agents to minor league contracts on Tuesday, including right-handed relievers Juan Carlos Oviedo (formerly known as Leo Nunez), Jamey Wright and Juan Sandoval, as well as OF Shelley Duncan. He added to the FA shopping spree Thursday by re-signing veteran righty Kyle Farnsworth and left-handed DH Luke Scott.
Oviedo, 30, saved 92 games during his three seasons with the Marlins (2009-2011), where he posted a 3.86 ERA through 198.0 IP. Due to a suspension for identity fraud and an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery, he didn’t pitch at all in the majors in 2012. Unfortunately for the Rays, Oviedo is going to miss most of this season as well to recover, which is why they added a 2014 option to his contract.
Shelley Duncan, the second biggest name in these signings, was a rather interesting pick-up. Back in a 2008 spring training game between Tampa Bay and the Yankees, Duncan started a bench-clearing brawl by purposely sliding hard into second baseman Akinori Iwamura. The 33-year-old right-handed power hitter will provide some depth in the corner outfield positions and might even end up at DH if the Rays fail to sign someone. Duncan is a .229/.306/.427 lifetime hitter who hit 11 homers and less than 50 RBI during each of his last three seasons with Cleveland, where he averaged 80 games per season. With that mediocre production and below-average defense, hopefully the Rays can find somebody better qualified in the next month to serve as the team’s DH.
Jamey Wright, a 38-year-old reliever with 17 years of MLB experience, could very possibly give Tampa’s ‘pen a nice boost. A very affordable option, Wright has proven to be one of the better groundball specialists in the league. Over the past three seasons with Seattle and Los Angeles, he’s posted a groundball percentage of 62.4%. That’s better than Burke Badenhop’s rate, who Wright could very likely replace in the bullpen.
Thirty-two year-old Juan Sandoval completes the trio of right-handed relievers acquired by the Rays Tuesday. Sandoval has never pitched in the big leagues, but he has spent the last two season in the Mexican League at the Triple-A level. One very intriguing fact about Sandoval is that he’s blind in one eye due to a pellet gun accident.
As for Kyle Farnsworth, well, Rays fans already know what kind of contributions he can give to the ‘pen. Farnsworth posted a 4.00 ERA with 8.3 K/9 through just 27 innings last year after missing most of the season due to an elbow injury. However, he had a career year as the team’s closer in 2011 when he went 5-1 with a 2.18 ERA and 25 saves.
Tampa Bay continued their busy Thursday by making another re-signing, but this one a bit more surprising. Lacking an adequate designated hitter, the Rays went out and signed Luke Scott despite declining his $6 million option in October and paying for his $1 million buyout. Scott had disappointing 2012 season with the Rays, batting just .229/.285/.439 with 14 homers and 55 RBI through just 96 games.
So, what does this flurry recent acquisitions mean for the current state of the Rays?
The bullpen now appears to be set with the additions of Farnsworth, Oviedo and Wright. The offensive depth just got better as well, as the Rays added both a right-handed and left-handed power bat in Shelley Duncan and Luke Scott.
Bats such as Travis Hafner, Juan Rivera, Carlos Lee, Jim Thome, Dan Johnson and Aubrey Huff are still available on the market, but the Rays are more than likely done with free agent signings this offseason as the roster seems to be set. Scott will probably end up as the starting DH as he was last year, and the Rays appear to be going with Jose Molina and Jose Lobaton as their two catchers to start the season.
It’s nice to see Friedman get the job done again this offseason by filling in all of the holes in the roster by the most affordable means possible. Rays fans should be confident that their team will have yet another successful bullpen in 2013, as Tampa once again displayed their ability to reconstruct what could potentially be one of baseball’s better ‘pens.