During the offseason, the Tampa Bay Rays made a "splash" with the free agent signing of Pat Burrel. They were able to nab a guy coming off of a 33 homerun season with the World Series Champion Philadelphia Phillies.
All he has done since, however, is hit .239 with 12 long balls in 322 at bats. Eight million dollars a season should net you a little more production, especially for a player that doesn't pay defense. What if they had never signed Burrell, though? Did they have an in house option right under their noses?
Willy Aybar fills in all over the infield except for shortstop. In 213 at bats this season, he has hit .254 with 10 home runs. Since the start of 2008, those numbers are .254 with 20 home runs in 537 at bats.
Could the Rays have saved $16 million over two seasons by simply giving Aybar a shot at playing everyday? They absolutely should have.
Mark Loretta signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2008 off-season for 1 year at $1.25 million to provide depth and position flexibility. Loretta can play all over the infield and provide a useful bat off of the bench. While his signing came with significantly less fanfare than Burrell's did, Tampa Bay would have been better off going with him and letting Aybar handle the DH duties.
The Rays are a financial conscious team. They do not have the deep pockets of the Yankees. They proved that when they traded Scott Kazmir to the Angels recently. Did Burrell's contract factor into the decision to trade a 25 year old former All-Star? Probably.
Perhaps the "splash" was really nothing more than a ripple.
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