(Nashville, Tennessee)–When Tampa Bay Rays Manager Joe Maddon spoke to a group of reporters on Monday, he talked about the reality of the Rays. The organization is going to lose people and will always have to find creative ways to keep the talent in-house. The Rays started that process this week when they signed James Loney to a one year, $2 million contract to be their first baseman. But, there were other holes to fill. Because of the flexibility of Ben Zobrist, General Manager Andrew Friedman could fill that hole in multiple ways and, as is typical Rays’ operation, at a good value.
Friedman once again was able to upgrade his team at a premium value when he agreed to a trade that sent double-A shortstop Derek Dietrich to the Miami Marlins for 30 year old shortstop Yunel Escobar.
The Rays, as of today, have their strongest infield defense in years. The addition of Escobar strengthens the shortstop position and allows Ben Zobrist to slide over to second base, his best defensive position on the field. Escobar posted a UZR of 4.6 last season along with an elite level plus-16 DRS. As a full-time second baseman in 2011, Zobrist posted a UZR of 6.8 and a DRS of plus-23. With Loney and Longoria on the corners, the Rays’ infield defense is the strongest in the league. Because of their lack of offense–they scored just 697 runs last season–run prevention is a necessity. Their elite level pitching staff is now supported by an elite level infield.
Category: 2012 Winter Meetings