The Rays have always been, and always will be, the underdog. Even when the Rays have a channelside stadium that draws 30,000 fans on a Tuesday, there will be reasons the Rays or the Bay areas are second rate. It's a small market. The payroll will be limited compared to other teams. That free agent signing wasn't the most popular option on the market. To be a Rays fan is to identify with this reality.
It is for this reason we tend to pull for the little guy, even on our own roster, and today I raise a glass to two of those players.
In order to make room on the 40-man roster, the Rays opted to DFA two of the system's catchers: cult favorite Stephen Vogt and the miracle story called Robinson Chirinos.
Vogt famously went 0-for-27 with one walk and one strikeout in 18 games with the Rays as a late season call up. If he were given a full season of plate appearances, projections expect an OBP between .291 and .307 with 10 HR potential and not much else. To be honest, that's not a far cry from what Jesus Montero did last year, but it wasn't enough to keep him on the roster. Vogt has the upside of Ramon Hernandez and the downside of Vinny Rottino. He batted .272/.350/.424 in 396 plate appearances in 94 games at Triple-A Durham last year.
Chirinos holds the most optimistic batting line among Rays catchers according to PECOTA, albeit over only 100 PA's - a .321 OBP, but no Rays catcher is expected to go much farther than 250 PA's this season (again, if you're PECOTA). He draws comparison to replacement level catcher George Kottaras, but boasts the added flexibility of playing the infield if necessary. Chirinos had a short stint with the major league club in 2011 as a mid-season call up, and was expected to take the reins as the back-up catcher in 2012 before a season ending concussion in Spring Training.
What teams may take a shot at acquiring Vogt or Chirinos is not readily clear, but I would suspect most organizations would love depth at the catching position. All would take is room on the 40-man roster. The Rays have ten days to trade, release, or pray Chirinos and Vogt can clear waivers to the minors. Losing both players limits the Rays to Chris Gimenez for major league ready depth at Triple-A Durham.
The Rays could have gotten away with only sending one player to the minors, had it not been for Luke Scott's calf injury that should sideline him for the month of April.
The first move made way for Juan Carlos Oviedo (formerly Leo Nunez) to be added to the 40-man, who was placed on the 60 day DL due to Tommy John recovery, and then the Rays added groundball specialist Jamey Wright. The second move gave way to Shelley Duncan, who fulfills the role of Designated Hitter until Scott returns, and could provide depth at first base.
Duncan recently made the top ten list of Beyond the Box Scores's players who don't need to be platooned, according to recent history at the plate, so his power potential at the plate could be a mainstay on the roster. Starting Duncan would likely require benching Sam Fuld - an upgrade in offense at the cost of Fuld's show-stopping defense.
Duncan or relief pitcher Frank De Los Santos are the likely culprits to be DFA'd when Wil Myers is promoted in a few months, assuming no trades have been made (cough, Niemann, cough).
UPDATE: April 5, 7:00 PM
Stephen Vogt has been traded to the Oakland Athletics for cash or a PTBNL.
UPDATE: April 8, 11:00 AM
Robinson Chirinos is being sent to the Rangers for a PTBNL (or cash, according to Topkin).