Rays Made Right Choice With Gabe Kapler Signing

One of the more spirited conversations this spring was over the Rays choice to sign Gabe Kapler instead of re-signing fan favorite Rocco Baldelli. Many Rocco fans felt that Baldelli, not Kapler, would have been a better right handed dance partner for Gabe Gross in right field. However, Andrew Friedman signed Kapler for $1,000,018.00 dollars while Baldelli signed an incentive laced contract with division rival Boston Red Sox.

Injury concerns played a pivotal role in the choice as the Rays were still leery about Baldelli's condition holding up over the course of the season. I'm sure we are all glad to see that Rocco has remained relatively healthy this year, but in terms of production it seems the Rays made the better choice in going with the Gabe of the day platoon.

Based on overall numbers, the production looks almost even. Kapler is hitting .250/.331/.456 while Baldelli is hitting .269/.331/.454. Baldelli has the higher batting average, but Kapler makes up for that with walks as you can see with the identical OBP. When Kapler hits the ball it's been with authority as shown in the slightly higher slugging percentage.

However, Kapler wasn't signed for his overall production. He is what he is, a platoon player, and a damn good one at that. With Gross handling the righties, the Rays need someone to handle the southpaws; this is what Kapler does.

Vs. LHP

PA

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

XBH

Kapler

114

0.302

0.386

0.594

0.980

19

Baldelli

78

0.296

0.359

0.437

0.796

4

Baldelli is no slouch against lefties, but Kapler is a beast. His 19 extra base hits against lefties are two more than Rocco has hit all together over the last two seasons against both lefties and righties (18 XBH in 209 PAs). Beside the offensive side of the platoon, Kapler has exhibited above average defense in the outfield which is something Baldelli has not this year.

For the season Kapler has put up a 4.9 UZR overall in the outfield. This includes a small sample size of below average defense in center and left field. For the position the Rays signed him, right field, Kapler has put up a 6.0 UZR. Baldelli on the other hand has been below average in the field this year. Rocco has played in the outfield 31 times this year and has posted a career worst -1.1 UZR. Please take into account that we are dealing with part time players so the sample sizes are smaller than a regular player, but they are that way by design. Looking at right field specifically, Baldelli has a UZR of -2.6 or nearly nine runs worse than Kapler.

One of the topics of discussion when the subsequent signings went down was salary. The Rays handed Kapler his million eighteen dollars and said go to work. The Red Sox signed Baldelli for a base salary of $525K or almost half of Kapler's base. This ruffled the feathers of some Rays fans who said OMG, we gave this guy more money than Baldelli; not quite.

Because of Baldelli's condition, the Red Sox loaded his deal with performance and roster bonuses. In addition to the base salary, Baldelli could've earned an additional $5.25 million dollars based on plate appearances and another $1.75 million dollars based on days active. For Baldelli to earn the first of his performance bonuses, he would need to amass 325 plate appearances. With 113 on the season, it does not seem likely that Rocco will hit even the lowest bench mark of these bonuses. He will, however, make some extra coin because he has been able to stay on the active roster nearly all season. Baldelli is scheduled to make and extra $250k for staying active for the following amount of days: 15, 40, 65, 90, 115, 140, 165.

Rocco has appeared in 42 games this year, but this is not based on games played, but days active. Without actually counting the number of days Rocco has been active, we can still gauge about how much he's made. To be safe, I'll say he has not reached the 90 day plateau, although he may actually have. Just by hitting the 15, 40 and 65 day marks, he has earned an additional $725k which puts his contract around $1.250 million dollars. If he stays healthy, he should earned an addition $500k pushing his deal near the $2 million dollar mark.

I'd be too much of an Andrew Friedman homer if I didn't mention Jonny Gomes in this revision of history. The Rays let Gomes walk after the 2008 season and he caught on the Cincinnati Reds on a minor league deal. After opening up the season in the minors, Gomes has simply mashed for the Reds. In 156 plate appearances, Gomes is hitting .273/.363/.561 with 11 home runs. He continues to eat left handed pitching and has an OPS of 1.020 against them in 64 PAs this year. At under a million dollars for the year, offensively Gomes is a steal. However, his move to the National League means Gomes has to actually play defense which we all know can be an adventure. He has not been terrible defensively this year, but has a UZR of -1.4 overall. I'd also add that Gomes is playing in a weaker division and his home ballpark is hitters friendly to say the least.

Taking all things: offense, defense, and contract into account, I am comfortable in saying the Rays made the "right" decision with Kapler. As much as people love Rocco and I love Gomes, Kapler has done exactly what we've asked from him this year. Sure, at times he takes ridiculous routes to track down balls in the outfield, and his baserunning has questionable from time to time, but overall the Rays are getting their moneys worth and more with Kapler.

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