As expected, the Rays and Hank Blalock agreed on a minor league deal. Jon Heyman reports the deal is worth $925k with an additional $
400k $325k in incentives. I got word around 9pm tonight that things were nearly done, and less than an hour later here we are.
Like some other major league veterans, I'm expecting there to be some language in the contract that would allow him to be come a free agent if he's not on the major league roster by a certain date, if not opening day.
Blalock closes an offseason long search for a left-handed bat after rumored attempts at Johnny Damon, Jim Thome and Russell Branyan came up empty. While Blalock looks like the teams 4th choice, he ultimately comes at the lowest price. Should things work out as planned and he becomes a successful player, the Rays will be on the hook for $1.25 million dollars. He would roughly need to be a 0.3 WAR to "earn" that.
In 495 plate appearances last season, Blalock hit .234/.277/.459 with 25 home runs and 21 doubles. The on-base percentage is ugly, but his batting average on balls in play (BABIP) of .249 is due for some regression(.296 career). It would be nice if he raised his 5.3% walk rate towards his career level of 8.0%; any little bit helps.
His power is real and his ISO (Isolated power, slugging minus batting average) has topped .220 in each of the last three seasons ,and five out of the last seven. He joins Ben Zobrist, Carlos Pena and Matt Joyce as a masher from the left side.
Defensively, he is no longer considered a third basemen and is now a first basemen/DH. If he makes the team, I'd assume most of his at-bats would come in the DH role since we have a pretty good left-handed hitter at first already. Many will speculate that this move means Carlos Pena's days are numbered, but we already knew this.
While it would be nice for Blalock to be his replacement, I'd take the next Eric Hinske or Ty Wigginton for the price.