Tampa Bay Rays' Outfield Fiasco: What They Should Do at MLB Trade Deadline

Dustin HullAnalyst IJune 17, 2011

Tampa Bay Rays' Outfield Fiasco: What They Should Do at MLB Trade Deadline

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    ST. PETERSBURG, FL - JUNE 1:  Outfielder B. J. Upton #2 of the Tampa Bay Rays follows a fly ball against the Texas Rangers June 1, 2011 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
    Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    The Tampa Bay Rays' outfield has been full of surprises so far this season, from Sam Fuld's hot April, to Matt Joyce's emergence and Justin Ruggiano's June jolt.

    But there are many questions hanging over this outfield, as June will soon turn to July. Joyce is the only sure thing when it comes to this situation. Everything else is still up in the air.

    For Joe Maddon and the Rays, it's a good problem to have, considering they have several decent options in the outfield. But some rather large decisions will be taking place over the course of the next month and a half.

    Here are the players in limbo as the Rays decide what to do with their outfield.

Desmond Jennings

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    CLEARWATER, FL - MARCH 06:  Outfielder Desmond Jennings #8 of the Tampa Bay Rays is congratulated by teammate Ray Olmedo #16 after scoring a run against the Philadelphia Phillies during a Grapefruit League Spring Training Game at Bright House Field on Mar
    J. Meric/Getty Images

    It's starting to become an often-asked question: When will the Rays call up Desmond Jennings?

    Every one of the so-called "experts" say he's officially ready for the big-time, full-time—he's started the season with nine home runs and 29 RBI for the Durham Bulls.

    In my opinion, it was the right choice to send Jennings down before the season began to give him a bit more seasoning. But most are convinced his time has come.

    There might be one thing holding the Rays back from calling him up: Justin Ruggiano. The way he's been swinging it since his call-up, it's becoming harder for the Rays to keep him out of the lineup, much less off of the 25-man roster.

    Fact: Jennings WILL be in the outfield before the season is over. So Tampa Bay will need to make room. Will Ruggiano be the odd man out?

    Let's explore this further...

Justin Ruggiano

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    ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 08:  Justin Ruggiano #16 of the Tampa Bay Rays hits an RBI single against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the seventh inning at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on June 8, 2011 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Many doubted and scrutinized the move the Rays made when they called up Justin Ruggiano, instead of Desmond Jennings or Brandon Guyer. Well, it has seemed to work out so far.

    Ruggiano was batting .348 coming into yesterday's game, on a hot streak as people are waiting for him to cool off. He has decent-to-good speed and also is solid with the leather.

    I'm not getting ahead of myself when I ask this, but, what if he doesn't drop off as much we expect and stays fairly consistent in June and July?

    Well, it would be mightily hard for the Rays to get rid of him, further delaying Jennings' call-up.

    That is, unless this happens...

Sam Fuld

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    SEATTLE - JUNE 05:  Sam Fuld #5 of the Tampa Bay Rays is tagged out by first baseman Justin Smoak #17 of the Seattle Mariners on a pick off play to end the fourth inning at Safeco Field on June 5, 2011 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Gett
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    He was "Super Sam", with a major folk-hero status. At least for one month, anyway. Now Sam Fuld is in a bit of a hole, with the last two months being a complete 180-degree turn from the first one this season.

    Fuld went from Super Sammy to Slumping Sammy in two separate months, making many wonder if he has any future with the team.

    With becoming such a fan-favorite in such a short time period, and all the hustle to go with it, it's hard to see the Rays letting him go. But it could certainly happen.

    He's remained a defensive gem, but before last night's game (where he doubled home a run) he was batting just .228. Many wonder if Ruggiano is June's version of Fuld.

    There's one more person that will be thrown in to the equation as the Rays look at the state of their outfield...

B.J. Upton

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    TORONTO, CANADA - MAY 18: B.J. Upton #2 of the Tampa Bay Rays argues a strike call with Tim Welke during MLB action against the Toronto Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre May 18, 2011 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images)
    Abelimages/Getty Images

    Are the Rays done waiting, or have they just come to expect above-average play from B.J. Upton? Either way, another trade deadline will approach with many fans calling for the trade of Upton.

    He's been deemed lazy, labeled an under-performer. Lackadaisical he may be, but we've seen flashes of greatness from Bossman Junior.

    But his full potential has never shined for a large quantity of time, and it may never do so. So it puts the Rays in a spot once again.

    Upton's power numbers are actually up, but a .213 average, before his rather solid performance last night, is hard to bare.

    The Washington Nationals were reported, a couple of weeks ago, as having interest in Upton. Ryan Zimmerman, the Nats' star third baseman, would love the idea of having his childhood friend in D.C. with him.

    Besides, the Nats have had horrible production already in center field, so they couldn't get much worse. The Rays may get a good price for Upton still.

    So on to the conclusion...

What the Rays Should Do

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    ST. PETERSBURG, FL - MAY 03:  Outfielder B.J. Upton #2 of the Tampa Bay Rays celebrates his two run walkoff home run against the Toronto Blue Jays at Tropicana Field on May 3, 2011 in St. Petersburg, Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
    J. Meric/Getty Images

    So how do the Rays solve this scenario? Well it could be simple, or anything but.

    If Ruggiano tanks, sending him down or away would be the easy move. But what if he's still batting over .300 when the deadline comes?

    In that case, things get hairy. If Upton doesn't progress, and Fuld stays in his funk, it will be interesting what the Rays conclude to.

    In any way that the dice may role, Desmond Jennings should be with the club by August. You would think Sam Fuld would be the guy out of the equation, if you're head is in the matter and not your heart.

    But Joe Maddon has said he wants Jennings to start right off the bat when he's pulled up, and Fuld hasn't even been starting.

    So if Maddon wants to start Jennings, and Ruggiano remains like his old walk-out song ("Fire" by Jimi Hendrix), then Upton could very well be out of town, and that may be what the Rays need.

    It's all speculation and scenarios for now, but one will become a reality sooner rather than later.