Tampa Bay Rays: The Right Fit in Right Field
For some reason, baseball writers seem to think that the Rays have a lingering problem in right field. Perhaps this is because about half a dozen players spent time out there.
Or perhaps they weren't paying close enough attention.
There is a difference, after all, between a team that lacks a right fielder and a team that has too many. It's a good problem to have, but it tends to confuse those who watch intermittently.
Were there problems at times? Yes.
But situations such as these tend to work themselves out, unless management tries to do too much. Andrew Friedman has proven that he is not the type to press a situation, so I expect him to do what he has done best: maintain homeostasis.
There is a reason that the Rays got to the World Series, and now is no time to mess that up. When the trade deadline came around this past season, the Rays were rumored to be involved in trades with any number of teams, and in the name of team chemistry, Friedman passed.
This offseason, the Rays are rumored to have interest in a few free agents and a trade or two. Unless there is no other option, I expect Friedman to pass again.
Eric Hinske had a very nice season, offensively, though fans may have liked a slightly higher batting average. He's better in the outfield than he gets credit for and, as he showed in the World Series, he can come through in a pinch. A veteran presence on a very young team is by no means a bad thing to have.
Gabe Gross had a very similar season. A higher batting average would have been nice, but he did have a few timely hits. His range in the outfield is not exactly the best, but it may seem worse simply by comparison to Crawford and Upton.
Jonny Gomes' production fell off this past season, but he has shown in the past that he can produce. His presence in the clubhouse cannot be forgotten.
Rocco Baldelli played well in limited action. He most likely can't carry the load at the position, but Rays fans wouldn't mind seeing one of their longer tenured players split time between the outfield and designated hitter.
Fernando Perez is a spark plug to say the least. His speed can change a game and when he's allowed to swing away, he can even have a little pop. He isn't your prototypical right fielder, but his range can more than makeup for his average arm.
To me, there is one option that can make opposing teams truly fear the day they have to play the Tampa Bay Rays. That option is starting Fernando Perez alongside Carl Crawford and B.J. Upton.
Line drives would have to be perfectly placed and fly balls would have to go over the fence. Nothing else would find the ground in the outfield.
Opposing pitchers would constantly be worrying about whichever one of them was on base. Slide-steps would be abundant and the rest of the lineup would benefit.
The defense would rush their throws and extra bases could be taken.
Catchers would be looking for excuses to ride the pine.
And if fans aren't comfortable with Perez in right field, B.J. Upton's cannon could take over. Perez would then be installed in center and no coverage would be lost, whatsoever.
Baldelli could still fill in every once in a while and spend time at DH. Eric Hinske or Gabe Gross could do the same and having any of them ready to come off the bench would be beneficial for the team.
It's a way for them to finally be feared. It's a way for them to finally be unstoppable. And finally, it's a way for them to keep it in the family.
What more could you ask for?
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