The Rays may be looking outside of Major League Baseball for the heir apparent to Carlos Pena at first base. Reports out of Miami say that the Rays are one of at least six teams who have expressed interest in Cuban free-agent Jose Julio Ruiz. Listed as a 25-year-old, Ruiz is seen primarily as a first basemen or a corner outfielder. A signing is expected as early as next week.
Once listed at six-foot two-inches and 205 pounds, the latest reports have Ruiz around 230 pounds. A contact-hitter with good patience, the added weight is reportedly an effort to become a power hitter in majors. Some reports are comparing Ruiz to David Ortiz. As mentioned, his new size puts him in the mold of a first basemen, but he did play center field for the Cuban National team and was a noted base stealer in his native land.
At his listed age Ruiz is not a "prospect" and by multiple reports is close to major league ready, if he isn't right now. This would definitely be appealing to the Rays as Carlos Pena is on the last year of his deal and is a potential in-season trade candidate. Of course with other teams with larger wallets in the mix including American League East rivals: Toronto, Boston and possibly New York, the Rays' odds are what they normally are...long. That said, the Rays could still have left over money from this past draft and have an extra 300k sitting around after winning arbitration over B.J. Upton.
Here is a brief clip of Ruiz smashing a home run.
Note the quick compact swing that scouts covet.