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The Rays Tank: Justin Ruggiano Declares Free Agency; Joe Maddon Nears Extension

After spending four and a half seasons battling away in Triple-A, Justin Ruggiano finally got an extended taste at the majors last season. He had gotten called up for brief respites in both 2007 and 2008, but this was the first time that Ruggs managed to play well after getting the call. He slugged four home runs and had a .290 wOBA over 111 plate appearances, which may not seem like anything special until you remember that the Fuld had cooled off and the Rays other bench players had around a .250 wOBA.

I've been flipping through the highlights involving Ruggs, and I'm surprised by how many of them involve him making a running or sliding catch. I do remember him having some big hits for the Rays -- like this and this -- but I feel like I may have underrated Ruggs during the season. If only he'd walked in more than 3.5% of his plate appearances, maybe the Rays wouldn't have DFA'd him for Carlos Pena.

Ruggiano has chosen to become a free agent rather than accept the Rays assignment back to Triple-A (where he'd likely be stuck for another year), so the best of luck to him going forward. Here's hoping another team is willing to pick him up and give him a major league bench job.

In other Rays news, Marc Topkin noted on Twitter yesterday that Joe Maddon and the Rays are expected to finalize a three-year contract extension before Spring Training begins. Maddon is traveling in Europe at the moment -- the lucky bum -- so they'll wrap up the details once he returns.