If the Tampa Bay Rays hope to reach the postseason in 2017, it might be through the AL Wild Card. While only being four games back of the second wild card spot, the Rays tried to keep their postseason aspirations alive by adding more depth to the roster for the stretch run in September. Last Friday, The Rays signed infielder Danny Espinosa to a major league contract. Espinosa broke into the show with the Washington Nationals in 2010, but now has been more of a journeyman across the league since leaving the Nationals in 2016. Espinosa started the 2017 season playing for the Los Angeles Angels and the Seattle Mariners before signing with the Rays.
The Tampa Bay Rays Get Veteran Glove in Danny Espinosa
For the now 30-year-old infielder who has not been able to hold a batting average of .250 his entire career, he has been able to produce in clutch moments. 2017 has been another disappointing offensive season for Espinosa. In his first year in the American League, he slashed .162/.237/.276 with the Angels, and currently sports a gross -1.7 WAR this season. Since switching leagues, Espinosa’s strikeout rate has ballooned to 36.2%, and his line drive rate has dropped to a career worst 12.9%. So why were the Rays interested in a player who has struggled at the plate this season?
For all the offensively troubles Espinosa has, he can be a veteran glove coming off the bench to play second and short. He has a respectable track record in Defensive Runs Saved, racking up 25 DRS playing second base while he was with the Nationals, as well as a stellar UZR at 29.2.
Since the Rays sent Tim Beckham to Baltimore, Brad Miller has seen regular time at shortstop. Miller who has only hit .193/.332/.320, has not had a good offensive year himself in 2017. More importantly Miller’s defensive stats are concerning. Through the 2013-2016 seasons, Miller has been giving away a scary amount of runs at the shortstop position, posting a poor -28 DRS. He hasn’t been much better at second either. With a underwhelming -8 DRS at second base, Miller hasn’t been much help in the two most important defensive positions on the field.
Tampa Bay acquired Adeiny Hechavarria from their hometown rivals, the Miami Marlins, at the trading deadline this year. He’s had a better 2017 season than Miller. Offensively Hechavarria is having a better season slashing a .251/.264/.364, and he also has better defensive stats than Miller. Hechavarria sports a career 17 DRS, with a 8.9 UZR.
Espinosa will most likely split time with Miller in the middle infield, and would give the Rays some defensive relief off the bench. Tampa is also interested in Espinosa playing at the hot corner, although he doesn’t have the best DRS numbers at that position. In 124.1 innings at third, he has posted a -2 DRS and a -0.4 UZR.
Espinosa was an interesting pick up for the Rays. We still yet to see Espinosa put together a good offensive season since leaving Washington, but defense is key going into the playoffs, and you cannot deny Espinosa’s track record for defense. Since being traded over to the Rays, Espinosa has gone 1-for-6 with one walk and four strikeouts in three games.
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