The Rays appear interested in pursuing free agent infielder Matt Davidson, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported Saturday. Rosenthal adds that the club envisions Davidson as a “potential two-way addition,” though it’s not yet clear how often they’d rely on his pitching ability as they move through the 2019 season.
Davidson, 27, stepped into a variety of roles with the White Sox in 2018. He logged 64 games at DH, 45 at first base, and 14 at third, and batted .228/.319/.419 with 20 home runs, a .738 OPS, and a career-high 0.8 fWAR across 496 plate appearances. While his last four seasons in the majors have made him a proven asset at the infield corners, however, there’s been little indication that he’s capable of transitioning to a semi-permanent role in the bullpen.
A brief summary of Davidson’s pitching career to date: The righty had not pitched since high school when he made his pro ball pitching debut last June. He completed three relief appearances over the course of the 2018 season, during which he issued one hit, one walk, and two strikeouts over three innings. Although he has yet to rack up any additional time on the mound in the majors or minors, the infielder-turned-reliever impressed with a fastball that topped out at 92 m.p.h. and a couple of decent breaking balls to boot.
For as much credit as the Rays are getting for their “ever-creative” roster configurations, it wouldn’t be the first time Davidson considered making the switch.
“To be honest, I would love to maybe explore that idea,” he told reporters after delivering a scoreless ninth inning during his second outing in late July. “Pitching was a dream. As a young kid, everybody wants to hit that walk-off homer, right? I was the guy striking that guy out. […] So, it’s something I would be interested in. I don’t know if the game would necessarily allow that, or something like that. It’s something that is really close to my heart.”
Whether he’s still willing to take on a two-way role remains to be seen, though Rosenthal explains that the Rays are well-positioned to facilitate such a change after helping no. 2 prospect Brendan McKay flourish as a first baseman/left-hander in 2017 and 2018.