Tampa Bay Rays Hope Castoffs Can Help Them Contend

Leslie MonteiroSenior Analyst IFebruary 2, 2011

ST PETERSBURG, FL - FEBRUARY 01:  (L to R)  Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman, Johnny Damon #22 of the Tampa Bay Rays, Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon and Manny Ramirez #24 of the Tampa Bay Rays pose for a photo during a press conference at Tropicana Field on February 1, 2011 in St Petersburg, Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
J. Meric/Getty Images

The Rays are finding a unique way to go to the playoffs this year.

They are relying on castoffs from their offseason moves. They feel those guys can help them contend for a wildcard spot with their core players.

It's an interesting move. It could work out, but it may not work out.

Either way, give them credit for trying to make something out of nothing this offseason.

The Rays signed Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez few weeks ago. They were introduced to the Tampa-St. Petersburg media today.

Watching them talk, they talked about proving to others they can still play. That's what happens when guys are trying to salvage their careers.

Those two are proud men. They don't want to leave on a bad note, so that attribute can serve them and the Rays well.

They have fine intentions, but there's no guarantee it will work.

Signing Ramirez was a questionable move. He wasn't great last year and he did not give the White Sox any boost on offense last year. He was an automatic out and he seemed disinterested about playing for them when they acquired him in the summer.

He was striking out often and he couldn't hit the ball past the outfielders in his time with Chicago.

The Rays were better off signing Vladimir Guerrero as their designated hitter. Now, they can still sign him and play Ramirez at left field. The problem with that thinking is Ramirez can't play on the field anymore. His knees can't keep up anymore, as anyone who saw him run last year knows.

Plus, if things don't go well for Ramirez, he could brood and take plays off. When a guy ages, it's tough to be the player he used to be. If he can drive in runs and take good at-bats, consider this an accomplishment.

As for Damon, he struggled at the plate last year. Despite having a good on-base percentage, he couldn't be a difference-maker on the base paths. He wasn't hitting either. His defense left a lot to be desired, especially when he throws to the cutoff guy.

Maybe playing in his hometown will rejuvenate him. He always talked about how he wanted to be with his family and how he is in a good frame of mind being around them.

Again, the Rays have to hope this works out.

If nothing else, this move gives the Rays an insurance in case Desmond Jennings struggles in spring training. Maybe it pushes the prospect to work hard so that he can make the team.

The Rays did it right by not giving the job to him outright without earning it.

The Rays also signed Joel Peralta, Casey Kotchman, Kyle Farnsworth, Ron Delaney and Matt Bush.

Bush will be in the minors. Kotchman and Delaney will get a shot to make the team. The Rays hope to get something out of Peralta and Farnsworth.

Kotchman has showed he is no better than Dan Johnson.

Farnsworth gives up hits like giving out free candy. It will be surprising if he takes Balfour's spot or Benoit's spot. He could do what Randy Choate did last year, which is being a situational reliever.

Peralta has the stuff, but can he be consistent? Delaney is a project.

These moves are the best the Rays can do. For a small-market team, it's hard to expect them to retain all of their stars and get a premier free agent. Still, the Rays should have kept Grant Balfour and Dan Wheeler, but they apparently thought those two did as well as they could.

It's hard to understand the trade of Matt Garza. He is the type of starter that can win 12 games with his stuff. He can be inconsistent, but in big games, he delivers. To lose that type of starter, it's unfathomable, especially when he has several years to go on his contract.

It could be easy for them to do nothing and throw this year off. Most small-market teams tend to do nothing when the window of opportunity is closed.

Now, these moves will not lead them to a championship, but at least they get their customers interested of what could be.

With Ramirez, anything goes. He will either do something stupid or he will get folks talking with his bat. He became a folk hero in Boston with his bat, despite his odd behavior.

With Damon, his all-out play will get fans interested.

With the relievers, they are either going to work out or they are not. The Rays fans will be interested to see if the new relievers can be as good as last year. They will certainly be interested to know who will the closer and if that guy can do what Soriano does. Either it's going to be J.P. Howell or Jake McGee.

The Rays have become relevant to the public and to the AL East with these moves. Players have something to play for. That’s something at least.

Whether the moves works, that's another story.

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