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Why Signing Brad Hawpe Makes Sense for The Rays

According to Jon Heyman, the Colorado Rockies have outright released outfielder Brad Hawpe. He was placed on waivers last week but was not claimed by any team. As Heyman notes, this was a quick fall for a guy who averaged 24 home runs and 77 walks over the past four seasons.

The fact that he was released means that the Rockies are on the hook for his 2010 salary of $7.5 million. Any team that wishes to sign Hawpe would only owe him the prorated minimum. The MLB minimum salary is $400k, and since there are roughly 40 games left this season that would make the prorated minimum ~100k. There were very good reasons the Rockies couldn't find a team to claim Hawpe on waivers; His salary and the realization that no one is going to give up anything of value for him in a trade. This is where the Rays come in.

If the team is willing to spend over $1 million on Chad Qualls then it's likely they would take a flier on Brad Hawpe for one hundred grand. His 2006-2009 seasons for the Rockies were pretty good. As I noted in the first paragraph, Hawpe averaged 24 home runs and 77 walks over those seasons. While Coors Field certainly enhances a player's overall numbers, Hawpe's home/road splits aren't so drastic. He has a .286/.378/.513 career line at Coors and a .274/.369/.471 line everywhere else. Plus his road wOBA over the '06-'09 seasons are impressive: .401, .359, .373, .377.  The .840 road OPS isn't amazing for someone who adds no value defensively, but it's not bad, plus the Rays wouldn't allow him to come within 50 feet of a glove anyway.

One thing Hawpe may have working against him it's the fact that he's left handed, and outside of Evan Longoria the majority of the Rays power comes from the left side of the plate. His splits against left handed pitching aren't pretty (.244/.323/.436), so he would be relegated to DH duties against right handers. The Rays recently called up Dan Johnson for that same job. To be eligible for the post season roster Hawpe would have to be signed before September 1st. I don't see a scenario where Johnson and Hawpe could co-exist on this team. Hawpe has a longer track record of success and would cost next to nothing to acquire. If it does indeed come down to Johnson vs Hawpe I can't imagine a situation where Johnson wins out. I like Johnson, and would feel bad if the Rays designated him for assignment, but Hawpe is simply the better player.

There is a possibility because of his cheap price tag that another team could offer Hawpe more than the prorated minimum, thus making him less attractive to the Rays. If that is the case he'll have to decide between having a few more dollars in his bank account or the chance at winning a World Series. With it looking less and less likely that the Rays will be claiming Manny Ramirez off the waiver wire, Brad Hawpe becomes the best, cheapest, and seemingly last option for an upgrade at DH.