Ever since designating C.J. Cron for assignment, the Rays have been looking to add another right-handed hitter to their lineup, and it appears they have closed in on one of their targets.
On Monday, MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal reported that the Rays are closing in on free-agent outfielder Avisail Garcia. MLB.com's Mark Feinsand reports that the deal is for $3.5 million guaranteed, plus bonuses that can make the deal worth up to $6 million.
This offseason, the Rays attempted to get into the Paul Goldschmidt sweepstakes before the D-backs shipped him to St. Louis, they were a finalist for Nelson Cruz, who ultimately signed with the Twins, and they have been rumored to have discussed deals for Miami's J.T. Realmuto and St. Louis' Jose Martinez. While Realmuto and Martinez remain options, it is Garcia who the Rays are taking a chance on.
Garcia, who was named an All-Star in 2017, finished the '17 campaign with an impressive .330/.380/.506 slash line and 18 home runs in 136 games. In 2018, however, Garcia was limited to just 93 games due to a hamstring injury and never really got going offensively. He finished the season with a .236/.281/.438 slash line and a career-high 19 home runs.
Power from the right side of the plate is something the Rays are lacking, and Garcia, when healthy, can hit left-handed pitching well. Last season, the 27-year old Garcia finished with a .279/.333/.477 slash line against southpaws, as opposed to his .222/.264/.426 line against righties. In his lone All-Star season, Garcia crushed left-handed pitching, finishing that year with an impressive .424/.454/.576 slash line in 141 plate appearances.
Where does Garcia fit in with the Rays lineup?
The Rays are looking to add more power, and Garcia can certainly provide that in the middle of the lineup. Despite struggling last season, Garcia's barrel rate was 11.6 percent, which is the highest of his career. His average launch angle also increased from 7.6 degrees in 2017 to 9.6 last season.
His strikeout rate, which was a career-high 26.5 percent last season, serves as a concern moving forward.
Tampa Bay has made it clear that it is constantly looking for different ways to improve its roster, so there are still a lot of moving parts to this Rays lineup. But with this move, it appears that Garcia and Ji-Man Choi could be platooning as the team's designated hitters. Garcia could also give the Rays some insurance defensively in right field when needed.
What's next for the Rays?
It remains to be seen whether the Rays decide to go after another right-handed hitter or if they believe adding Garcia is enough.
One area the Rays could explore is adding another first baseman to the roster. With the departure of Jake Bauers, the team has a bit of a question mark at the position, but the team could elect to move forward with a combination of Yandy Diaz, Brandon Lowe and Choi, at least until prospect Nathaniel Lowe, who is expected to make his Major League debut during the 2019 season, is ready to be called up from Triple-A Durham.
By adding Garcia, the Rays will have to make a corresponding move to its 40-man roster, which won't be an easy decision as the team has stockpiled quality depth throughout the organization.