ST. PETERSBURG -- When Avisail Garcia entered free agency, he was looking to sign with an organization that made him feel at home, and a team that would give him a chance to prove that he's better than his numbers in 2018 showed. Once the Rays communicated with the outfielder, he knew there was a match.
"They're a competitive team and they play hard every single day, and that's who I am," Garcia said, when asked why he decided to sign with the Rays. "I think it's going to be fun this year."
On Friday, the Rays announced that the club had come to a one-year, $3.5 million contract with Garcia. The 27-year-old has a chance to earn up to $6 million if he reaches the incentives. In order to make room for Garcia on the 40-man roster, the Rays designated right-handed reliever Oliver Drake for assignment.
After becoming an All-Star in 2017, Garcia struggled to get going at the plate in 2018. He played in just 93 games, which is the lowest since 2014, and saw his batting average go from a career-high .330 in '17 to a career-low .236 in '18. Garcia attributes most of his struggles last season to lingering pain in his right knee.
"I was fighting the whole season with pain," he said. "Sometimes you feel good, sometimes you don't. I was fighting the whole season, but still trying to do my best."
After the season, Garcia had arthroscopic surgery to clean up the issues in his knee. The surgery took place in November.
"I'm 100 percent now," Garcia said. "I'm happy with my new team and just ready to go."
Garcia, who is 6-foot-4, 240 pounds, was able to finish the 2018 season with a career-high 19 home runs. His barrel rate was a career-high 11.6 percent and he saw his launch angle increase from 7.6 degrees in 2017 to 9.6 last season.
Garcia admits that he got into some bad habits last season. His strikeout rate ballooned to a career high. He said he's working on trying to hit the ball to all fields, all while maintaining the power in his swing.
"I'm just thankful to be back and be a full player," Garcia said. "Right now, I'm feeling great and just trying to make adjustments."
Adding Garcia fills a need in the Rays' roster. Ever since designating C.J. Cron for assignment, the Rays have been in the market for a power-hitting right-handed bat. Adding Garcia gives the Rays a good bounceback candidate who's motivated to have a much better year.
"We think that he's a lot closer to his 2017 version than his 2018 [version]," said Rays general manager Erik Neander. "He has the right mindset and motivation to fit in with our group and be part of what we hope is a selfless, but very talented team."
Garcia is a career .304 hitter against left-handed pitching and projects to be the team's designated hitter when the Rays are facing a southpaw on the mound. Ji-Man Choi is projected to be the designated hitter when the team is going against a right-hander. Garcia also gives the team much-needed depth in the outfield, and could see time at right field whenever the team needs it. The 27-year old Garcia joins an outfield group that includes Tommy Pham, Kevin Kiermaier, Austin Meadows, Guillermo Heredia and Brandon Lowe.