It’s no secret that the Rays need to upgrade their shortstop for next season. Their shortstops were amongst the worst hitters in the majors, ranking 28/30 in wOBA with 263. For those wondering at home, that’s .001 points better than the 30th ranked team. There aren’t that many quality shortstops available in free agency, so the Rays aren’t likely to go this route. Jimmy Rollins is an above average SS, but given his asking price there’s not a chance the Rays can take sign him. It’s possible that the Rays start the season with Sean Rodriguez at short, but he’s much better suited to 2B. So who should the Rays be looking at to fill the position?
Maicer Izturis. The Angels utility infielder is a pending free agent, making $3.8 million. So he’ll clearly fit into the Rays budget. He was a league average hitter last season, hitting 276/334/388 and earning 2 WAR over a career high 122 games. He’s a solid defender, and his ability to play multiple positions will make him an effective weapon for Joe Maddon. He’s a switch hitter who has historically done equally well against right and left handed pitchers, so he doesn’t need to be platooned.
What can the Rays trade that will interest the Angels? Anaheim’s bullpen really struggled last season, ranking 10th in FIP. There’s not a lot of depth in the bullpen, as they primarily rely on Jordan Walden, Scott Downs and Rich Thompson. With a lineup that is pretty questionable outside of Pujols, they’re going to need a deep bullpen in order to win games. The Rays have fantastic depth in their bullpen, and could afford to move someone like Brandon Gomes for Izturis. Gomes went 2-1 with a 2.92 ERA in 37 innings last season. With the Angels trying to cut back on payroll after signing Pujols and Wilson, getting rid of Izturis’ 3.8M and getting back a player making the league minimum who has several years of club control would be tough to turn down.
Izturis may not be the flashy SS Rays fans might be expecting. But he’s a quality contributor, who has a solid glove with a league average bat that could be worth 2 wins for the Rays. And with the second wild card forcing teams to fight harder for the division, those wins could be the difference between playing or watching baseball in October.