Here's a Thought: The Rays Front Office Does It Again

Nathaniel StoltzSenior Analyst IDecember 19, 2009

ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 25:  Ryan Shealy #43 of the Kansas City Royals bats against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim during the MLB game on June 25, 2007 at Angel Stadiium in Anaheim, California. The Royals defeated the Angels 5-3.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Only a few franchises in MLB truly understand how to spend money wisely. I would trot out the A's, Twins, Rockies, Mariners, Brewers, Cardinals, Phillies, and the Rays as some of these.

Few do a better job of acquiring the best talent with the least money than the last team in that list: Tampa Bay.

And they've done it again.

Most fans, possibly even many Tampa Bay fans, don't realize that the Rays signed first baseman Ryan Shealy to a minor league deal this week.

But Shealy is important: he's exactly the type of player small-market teams should give a first base, DH, or corner outfield job to.

Let's take a look at Shealy's skills.

In 164 career major league games, the massive righty has hit .271/.335/.429 with 19 homers, 46 walks, and 148 strikeouts. Those aren't tremendous numbers, but it's not like he fell flat on his face, either.

He's also a career .307/.363/.481 hitter against righties, so he's not just a lefty-masher.

In his most recent playing time, 73 ABs in 2008, Shealy hit .301/.354/.603 (no, that's not a typo) with no protection in a woeful Royals lineup.

Shealy has been a deadly minor league hitter, with a tremendous .311/.401/.564 career line (.300/.380/.540 career in AAA). He has demolished both lefties (.302/.406/.615) and righties (.296/.369/.510) in Triple-A.

So Shealy can hit. He hit .345/.454/.425 in 25 Triple-A games last year, so he clearly still has a nice bat at age 30.

But, surely, the behemoth (6'5" and somewhere north of 250 lbs.) must be a horrific defender, right?

Actually, Shealy is a Gold Glove-caliber first baseman according to UZR. His career UZR/150 is an excellent +15.0. He also has been tried a bit in the outfield in spring training and the minors, and is acceptable there.

Shealy is the sort of player who could slug .500 for a team if they gave him 150 starts and just let him be. Russell Branyan, a player with a similar reputation (but less contact ability), excelled when the Mariners let him play first base all year in 2009.

It's no surprise that a smart outfit like the Rays ultimately landed Shealy. Don't forget, Carlos Pena was in a not-too-dissimilar position to Shealy a few years ago when the Rays picked him up. That certainly worked out.

Don't be surprised if he Shealy has an excellent year for the Rays, and makes several other teams rue not signing him.