The Tampa Bay Rays Signing Colby Rasmus Shouldn't Be Surprising
If you are someone who strikes out a lot and hits some homers, but can't get on base and can't hit the ball into fair territory with any consistency, then the Tampa Bay Rays will probably be calling your agent pretty soon.
Outfielder Colby Rasmus has signed a one-year deal with Tampa, where he will most likely platoon with Steven Souza in right field. The Rays desperately needed to add some offense -- while only the Baltimore Orioles, Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays hit more home runs than Tampa's 2016 bombs, they still managed to score the second-fewest runs in the American League last season.
Hitting all those homers are nice, but it clearly didn't help the bottom line very much, and mainly because of an inability to get on base. Their .307 team OBP was second-worst in the league, and their .243 batting average ranked last. They also struck out more than any other American League team last year, going down on strikes 24.5% of the time.
So, how do they solve this problem? They sign Rasmus, who hit .206/.286/.355 in '16, with 15 homers and a strikeout percentage of 29.0%. At least he walks more than the average Ray (10.3% compared to 7.4%).
Exactly how does this make the Rays' offense any better in 2017?
Sure, he gives the team a few more walks, but an on-base percentage of .286 and a weighted runs created (wRC+) of 75 in 417 plate appearances is downright ghastly. He did play good defense, which allowed him to put up an fWAR of 1.4, and the hope is he'll rebound to something closer to his 2015 numbers. But is that really all that great?
Rasmus slugged 25 dingers in '15 and had a wRC+ of 117, which is just fine. Unfortunately, he also hit .239 and posted an OBP of just .314. Even if there is a rebound, does it really move the needle all that much for Tampa?
As I mentioned above, Tampa hit 216 home runs last year, fourth-most in the AL, but a majority of them (136) came with no ducks on the pond. Check out Tampa's solo homers/per total home runs last year compared to the rest of MLB.
|Team||Solo HR||Total HR||Solo HR %|
Only four teams had a higher percentage of their home runs come with nobody on base. And for the most part, the better offenses are at the bottom, where a larger percentage of their dingers came with men on.
Tampa also struggled to simply hit singles and doubles with runners on. Their 321 singles with runners on were the fewest in baseball last season, and their 112 doubles were 17th. People get obsessed with the home run, but a well-placed two-run single can also get the job done quite often. Just ask the Kansas City Royals of 2014 and '15.
Consider some of the mainstays of Tampa's offense from last year, with Rasmus added at the end. The profile for virtually everyone in the lineup is strikingly similar.
|Steven Souza Jr.||468||17||6.6%||34.0%||.247||.303||.409||.308||94||1.3|
Evan Longoria is clearly a stud, and Kevin Kiermaier's defense is so spectacular that any additional offense he provides is gravy. Brad Miller's 30 home runs were a surprise, but when you look at these numbers, you see a lot of low batting average, low on-base guys with decent power potential, but not much else.
Rasmus is also strictly a platoon bat these days. Against left-handed pitchers last year, he hit .136/.220/.235 with just two long balls in 91 plate appearances. He wasn't a whole lot better against right-handers either, with a triple slash of .226/.305/.389.
What may be the Rays' saving grace next year is a starting rotation that could turn out to be pretty good. And when you catch the Rays on a day the big bats are thumping, they can put some runs on the board. However, against good pitching, Tampa struggles because they can't grind out at-bats and don't put the ball in play enough.
This offseason, the Rays needed to get players who hit for a higher average and get on base more consistently.
Instead, they got Colby Rasmus. Even if he bounces back and performs like he did two years ago, still doesn't fill enough of the existing gaps in the Tampa Bay offense.