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.

Blue Jays sign Marc Rzepczynski to minor league deal

Marc Rzepczynski
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The Blue Jays announced on Monday the signing of lefty reliever Marc Rzepczynski to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. “Scrabble,” as he’s affectionately known, spent the first two and a half years of his career with the Blue Jays in 2009-11.

Rzepczynski, 34, hasn’t appeared in the majors since July 2018. He struggled across 44 2/3 innings with the Reno Aces, the Diamondbacks’ Triple-A affiliate, last year. He posted a 5.04 ERA with 36 strikeouts and 28 walks.

While lefty relievers are always high in demand, it seems likely that Rzepczynski will begin the regular season in the minors and serve as organizational depth for the Blue Jays.