ST. PETERSBURG, FL-The Tampa Bay Rays have signed outfielder Rocco Baldelli to a minor league
contract. He has been assigned to the Charlotte Stone Crabs (A) of the Florida State League.
Baldelli, 28, rejoined the Rays as a special instructor during spring training. He spent the 2009 season playing
for the Boston Red Sox, where he hit .253 (38-for-150) with seven home runs and 23 RBI in 62 games. The
right-handed hitter is a six-year major league veteran, including his first five seasons (2003-04, 2006-08) with
the Rays. He owns a .279 (526-for-1,886) career batting average with 59 home runs, 257 RBI, 98 doubles and
59 stolen bases.
Baldelli was selected No. 6 overall by the Rays in the 2000 June Draft. He played in a career-high 156 games
in 2003, finishing third in American League Rookie of the Year balloting. He missed the entire 2005 season
and most of the 2007 and 2008 seasons due to injuries, but returned to the Rays on August 10, 2008 and
remained on the active roster throughout the postseason.
Let me start this by saying for Rocco Baldelli, the man, I am very happy to hear this news. As I became a Rays fan in 2001, there were not many players to choose from in terms of a "favorite." When Rocco arrived on the scene full-ime in 2003, I had found "my guy."
The last few years have been very unfortunate for Baldelli due to his medical condition. The fact that he is at a point where he can attempt a comeback, and do it with the Rays is a good enough story for me. The trap is not to have high (or any, really) expectations going into this experiment. If you think Rocco Baldelli is the bat we need to put us over the top, you're setting yourself up for disappointment.
Not to be a downer here, but since 2007, Baldelli has amassed just 374 plate appearances. His single-season high came last year with 164 PAs for the Boston Red Sox. Over the three years, his slash line is .237/.303/.414. Throughout his career, Baldelli has excelled against lefties (.831 OPS). Even in limited time last season, he hit .290/.343/.441 in 102 PAs vs. southpaws.
Best case scenario to me is Baldelli can come back and be a better 25th man than Gabe Kapler or Willy Aybar. That said, we can not count on Rocco as our deadline move - or even to make it back to the major leagues. Just think back a few weeks to Steve's post on expectations, and what happens when the bar is set the bar too high.
In reality, this move is just the latest low-risk/potential upside move made by Andrew Friedman in the never ending search for the extra 2%. Let's treat it as such. Good Luck, Rocco