X-rays originally came back negative after Rays leadoff man Desmond Jennings sprained his left middle finger on Saturday, but further tests Monday revealed a fracture, putting him on the 15-day disabled list.
Light-hitting Jason Bourgeois was called up to replace him on the roster.
The loss of Jennings is a big one for the Rays. His .258/.326/.419 line in 415 at-bats may not seem all that stellar, ranking just about average as far as AL center fielder’s go, but the only other player on Tampa Bay’s roster to see even an inning in center field this season, Sam Fuld, is batting .198/.270/.278 in 126 at-bats. Bourgeois, a 31-year-old journeyman, was hitting .291/.336/.371 in Triple-A.
The Rays do have the option of going to Wil Myers in center. It was his primary position between Double- and Triple-A in the Royals system last year. However, the Rays were using him strictly as a right fielder even before his callup in June; he hasn’t made an appearance at any other position this year.
It suggests that the Rays will try to get by with a Fuld-Bourgeois platoon until Jennings returns, with Fuld starting against righties and Bourgeois playing versus lefties. If the Rays do want to mix it up, they could use Myers in center with groundball pitchers Roberto Hernandez and Alex Cobb (currently on the DL) starting. But it’s probably not worth it.
On Sunday, we heard from former Ray and current Giants third baseman Evan Longoria. The Rays recently traded pitcher Jake Odorizzi to the Twins for a prospect and designated All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, which didn’t make a whole lot of sense outside of a cost-cutting perspective. Longoria said, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base.”
Today, we’re hearing from a current Ray: center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, who is set to enter his fifth full season with the club. Via Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, Kiermaier said, “I am 100 percent frustrated and very upset with the moves. No beating around the bush. It’s one of those things that makes you scratch your head, you don’t know the reasoning why. And then you see the team’s explanation and still it’s just like, okay, well, so be it.”
Longoria — formerly the face of the franchise — was traded to the Giants in December and the Rays continued to subtract with their recent moves involving Odorizzi and Dickerson. Odorizzi has a career 3.83 ERA in what has been a solid, if unspectacular, career. Dickerson put up an All-Star season, posting an .815 OPS with 27 home runs in 150 games. Moving either player was not done to fix a positional log jam. In fact, with Odorizzi out of the picture, the Rays are planning to use a four-man starting rotation for the first six-plus weeks of the season, Topkin reported on Sunday. Dickerson’s ouster simply opens the door for Mallex Smith, who posted a .684 OPS last year, to start every day in the outfield.
The Rays got markedly worse after going 80-82 last season. They saved a few million bucks jettisoning Odorizzi and Dickerson. And Rays ownership still wants the public to foot most of the bill for their new stadium.
When it was just one small market team pinching pennies, it was fine. But now that more than half of the league has adopted penny-pinching principles popularized by Moneyball and Sabermetrics (with the Rays among the chief offenders), the game of baseball has become markedly less fan- and player-friendly. This offseason has been less about players signing contracts and changing teams in trades — which helps build excitement and intrigue for the coming year — and more about front offices doing math problems concerning the $197 million competitive balance tax threshold and other self-imposed monetary restraints. Fun. Kiermaier is right to be upset and he’s very likely not alone in feeling that way.