What does Manny’s retirement mean for the Rays?

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Manny Ramirez’s retirement has sent shockwaves through the baseball world, but it’s also left a pretty big hole in the middle of the Rays’ projected lineup.

The Rays took a calculated risk by signing Ramirez this winter, but despite his lack of production with the White Sox down the stretch last season, he still batted .298/.409/.460 with an .870 OPS over 320 plate appearances for the entire year. It was a worthwhile risk to take, especially at the bargain basement price of $2 million. Of course, the Rays are no longer responsible for his salary now that he has chosen to retire, but that doesn’t make his abrupt exit any easier to swallow.

Entering play Friday, the Rays have scored just eight runs over their first six games. They haven’t had a lead once. And they are expected to be without their best hitter Evan Longoria for at least the next two weeks with an oblique injury. They’re in deep trouble offensively, at least in the short-term.

The easy and most exciting impluse would be to call up top prospect Desmond Jennings from Triple-A Durham and stick him in left field, moving Johnny Damon to designated hitter. Then again, it’s in the best interests of the franchise for the long-term to delay his service time for a little while longer, so we probably won’t see him until some time after Memorial Day.

Following the announcement of Ramirez’s retirement, the Rays called up Casey Kotchman from Triple-A Durham, who will be the regular first baseman moving forward. Dan Johnson will become the primary designated hitter while Johnny Damon will remain in left field.

Swapping Kotchman for Ramirez is hardly exciting, but more than anything, it’s an indication that the Rays now know they don’t have the best chance to contend this season.

Report: Mariners interested in Asdrubal Cabrera

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Matt Ehalt of The Record reports that the Mariners may have some interest in acquiring second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera from the Mets. The club hasn’t confirmed anything of the kind, naturally, but the prevailing thought is that they’ll need some insurance at second base if they reach the playoffs, since Cano’s current 80-game suspension precludes him from participating in any postseason series.

On Friday, club GM Jerry Dipoto revealed that Cano will likely return to the team as a first baseman once his suspension expires, while second baseman/outfielder Dee Gordon is slated to remain at the keystone for the foreseeable future. With the infield all but set in stone, however, Dipoto said that acquiring position players at this year’s deadline isn’t likely to be a “primary concern,” especially as the team focuses on strengthening their pitching staff prior to making a run at the postseason.

Still, there’s a case to be made for Cabrera. The 32-year-old second baseman has already improved on some of last year’s totals and is currently batting .282/.335/.492 with 17 home runs (16 more than Gordon has tallied so far in 2018), 21 doubles and an .827 OPS in 385 plate appearances. He could provide some much-needed support behind Gordon until Cano’s suspension lifts on August 14; following the end of the 2018 season, he’s scheduled to enter the free agent pool for 2019.