The Rays made a minor move on Monday, tingling with the 40 man roster. The team dropped the craptacular Kevin Witt, who hit an awe-inspiring .148/.148/.279 over the final five or so weeks of the season, from the 40 man roster and effectively released him from the organization. The move was made in anticipation of changes to the 40 man roster before December's Rule 5 draft, as draft-eligible lefty Jeff Ridgway, whom the Rays think highly of, was added to take Witt's place.
Witt hit .291/.360/.577 for Durham over nearly all of the IL season, capturing MVP honors and sparking calls for him to be called up nearly all season. He finally was brought up in late August following the Russell Branyan trade, and proceeding to perform horribly over the final month.
It is quite clear by now that Witt is a Quadruple-A player. This is the fifth time he has failed in a major league stint, though his .840 OPS in ten minor league seasons is quite impressive. Quite honestly, while it appears he will not be back next season, I personally would not mind giving him an invitation to spring training. No, I would never give him anything resembling a legitimate shot at the final roster, but I think that Witt could be one of the better roster-fillers for the Bulls. Seriously, the progression of the SL Champion Biscuits up the ladder to Durham next year will be a huge step forward for many of them, and I believe the DRO should be committed to creating a winning environment for the younger prospects. It helps morale and development, and let's face it, any success in Durham may be the last that some of these guys ever see. Witt was perfectly fine as an AAA roster-filler last year, I would never stick him on the 40 man roster, but his type are good to have around.
Ridgway was added to the 40 man roster to take Witt's place, as mentioned previously. This is just a technical move that officially means that other teams will not be able to lay their dirty little paws on the southpaw whom the DRO really likes a lot. Ridgway pitched in 50 games between Montgomery and Durham last year. He pitched to a 2.33 ERA to begin the year for the Bisquicks, striking out a jaw-dropping 13.5 batters per nine innings while walking just seven over 19.1 innings. He surrendered exactly one home run, and had a G:F of 5.00. Pretty clear that he passes that test, eh?
He regressed a bit in Durham, as natural for a larger sample size and a higher classification, but still posted a 3.03 ERA, while walking 13 and keeping up the impressive strikeout numbers. He fanned 38 in 38.2 innings of work. He struggled a bit last year in Visalia (few don't), but the strikeout numbers were consistently great, even there. Despite walking 36 and having a 5.20 ERA over 45 innings out west, Ridgway still managed an 11.2 K/9.
Is there any real plausible dissent to this move? You can argue about the order which you prefer players to be protected in, but the bottom line is, dumping Kevin Witt for Jeff Ridgway does not take five MIT grads. And with Ridgway having so much success, as close to the majors as he is, he had the deadly combo of success and experience at higher levels which would have made him a lock to be selected in the Rule 5. I for one think it was an excellent move, albeit minor, and Rays fans can sleep well tonight knowing that a good young pitcher with a spot waiting for him in our bullpen will not stray away from the herd next year.