The Tampa Bay Rays have been horrible this year.
Coming into this season they were expected to compete for not only the American League East crown, but a possible World Series title. However, they are currently sitting in last place in their division and will almost assuredly lose their ace pitcher, David Price. The Rays must now decide if they are going to look toward the future and begin unloading their most valued assets.
Last week Jon Erkkila detailed a few players who could contribute to the Tigers should general manager Dave Dombrowski feel like a move is in order. Potential holes that can be filled are in the bullpen, at the corner outfield spots, and at shortstop. Adding a bat to supplement Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez would be great, too.
And there is only one player who could fill every need, save for the bullpen — Don Kelly.
I'm kidding. But what if there was a super Don Kelly? All of the wonderful Don Kelly-type things, only much, much better!
Ben Zobrist has a lot of things working for him, on and off the baseball field. However, comparing him to Don Kelly, even in jest, is not really fair considering the type of player he is. Sure, he can play almost every position on the field at a high level of success, but he is also a pretty great hitter. Since 2009, Zobrist has averaged 4.7 oWAR per season, peaking at 6.1. He has a lifetime batting average of .262 and can hit double-digit home runs regularly from both the right and left side of the plate. He is a great base-runner, and has above-average speed, too.
Wouldn't he look great penciled into the number five slot in the Tigers lineup?
Maybe the most important number of all is his salary. Zobrist has a $7 million option for next season, which is very affordable for a team likes the Tigers. Picking up that option is almost as close as you can get to a guarantee.
Eugenio Suarez has played two weeks of brilliant baseball, but only time will tell if he is able to keep up a consistent level of production. Zobrist has played a good shortstop in the past and a platoon of Suarez and him would be a huge upgrade over the Suarez/Romine combination.
The corner outfield spots, especially right field, might be the most comfortable home for Zobrist should he move to Detroit.. He has played 314 career games in right field, and he has played them well. He has an above-average arm and reads balls well off the bat. In 2011, playing mostly second base and right field, Zobrist was second in the American League with 3.3 dWAR.
Defensively, Torii Hunter has struggled to the point of embarrassment, and J.D. Martinez and Rajai Davis have never been known as glove-men.
As good as he is with the glove and the bat, he is by all accounts just as important in the locker room. Maybe that's not as important on a team with Victor Martinez, Torii Hunter and Miguel Cabrera, but it certainly doesn't hurt.
Oh, and his nickname is Zorilla. I'm sold.
Tampa Bay general manager Andrew Friedman and Dombrowski have made deals in the past and there seems to be a good relationship between the two. Time will tell if the Rays will want to sell at the deadline, or if the Tigers have the pieces they would be looking for in exchange for such a valuable player.