Player: Jorge Cantu
Born: January 30th, 1982 (Currently 32 years old)
Tenure: 1998 - 2007
Positions: 1B, 2B, SS, 3B, and DH
Drafted: Wasn't drafted, signed as an amateur Free Agent on July 2nd, 1998
Start of Tenure: See above
*- Didn't appear in a MLB game
Retired: Still active, playing in the KBO with the Doosan Bears. Career span of 16 years (1997 - ?)
Rays Stat Line: 0.1 WAR, .272 AVG, .308 OBP, .756 OPS, 44 HR, 200 RBI, 2 SB in 332 games
Jorge Cantu signed with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays on July 2nd 1998 when he was 16 years old and playing in a Junior Olympic Tournament in Mexico City, Mexico. He would play his first professional game at the age of 17 in A- short season ball in Hudson Valley. He only played at Short, and put up decent numbers considering his age. A year later in 2000, he was moved up to class A Charleston. Cantu did excellent there and earned a promotion halfway through the season to class A+ St. Petersburg. Cantu showed an excellent ability to make contact, but didn't really have patience or power at the plate. He only struck out 13 times in a 137 plate appearance, but only walked 3 times.
In 2001, the Devil Rays assigned Cantu to AA Orlando. Cantu at 19, was the youngest player in AA during the 2000 season and even though his number don't look too impressive, he was selected to be in the Southern League All-Star Team. Entering the 2002 season, Cantu was ranked 8th on Baseball Americas' top 10 prospect list for the Devil Rays. The 7 prospects in front of Cantu were; Josh Hamilton, Carl Crawford, Dewon Brazelton, Jesus Colome, Rocco Baldelli, Seth McClung, and Matt White.
Cantu would play every game of the 2002 season in Orlando, but again didn't post very impressive numbers and removed from Baseball Americas' top ten list. In 2003, Cantu spent 40 games in Orlando, than he was promoted to AAA Durham and that's where he finished the 2003 season.
In 2004, after 4 years of being a contact hitter in the minors, Cantu found his power stroke in Durham. He hit 22 home runs in 368 at-bats. He earned a call up on July 17th along with Joey Gathright, who was ranked 5th in the D-Rays' system. The Devil Rays DFA'd Fred McGriff and optioned Damian Rolls to Durham to make room for the 2 prospects. Cantu made his debut that night against the Baltimore Orioles. He pinch hit for Robert Fick in the bottom of the 8th with the Devil Rays trailing 3 -1. B.J. Ryan, the Orioles set up man had struck out Jose Cruz Jr looking to start the inning. Tino Martinez would then hit a grounder to 2nd, but Brian Roberts misplayed it for an error allowing Martinez to reach base. Ryan walked Julio Lugo to set the stage for Jorge Cantu. Orioles Manager, Lee Mazzilli replaced Ryan with Jason Grimsley. Grimsley's first pitch was a ball, Cantu swung through the next one, and fouled off the 3rd pitch to make the count 1-2. On the 4th pitch, Cantu got a hold of it and sent it to deep Center Field, but Orioles center fielder, Luis Matos was able to make the play. It was deep enough that both, Martinez and Lugo were able to advance. Unfortunately, the Devil Rays weren't able to capitalize and ended up losing 3-2.
Cantu spent 11 days with the team, than was sent back down to Durham in exchange for the Devil Rays' #1 prospect, B.J. Upton. On August 13th, the team released outfielder Robert Fick and brought Cantu back up to the majors. The 22 year old finished the season nicely for the Rays showing he had the bat to stick around. Heading into the 2005 season, Cantu was expected to be a utility man around the infield backing up for the newly signed Second Baseman, Roberto Alomar and Third Baseman, Alex Gonzalez. In Spring Training, Cantu was hitting very well and on March 19th, Alomar announced his retirement opening up the door for Cantu to step in. Cantu ended up leading the team in hitting during Spring Training. On April 4th, 2005, Lou Pinella inserted Cantu as the Second Baseman and 6th in the order against Roy Halladay and the Toronto Blue Jays. Cantu would go 1-3 in the game getting an RBI with a sacrifice fly, he would go on to hit in the first 11 games of the season, racking up 3 home runs.
Jorge Cantu would go on to have a great offensive season and was named the 2005 Devil Rays' Most Valuable Player . He hit 28 HR, 19 of which were as a 2nd baseman, That shattered the previous team record of 5 held by Marlon Anderson, and Cantu also set a new franchise record with 117 RBI. Cantu also set a team record for multi-homer games with 4. The 23year-old's future looked promising and make the Devil Rays future look promising.
Unfortunately, in 2006, Cantu was nagged by an injury for the majority of the season. 2006 started off well for Cantu though, he did decent in Spring Training and played for Mexico in the World Baseball Classic going 7-20 with 2 HR and 6 RBI. Only 4 games into the season, Cantu fouled a ball of his left foot. He would remain in the lineup until April 23rd when it was revealed the he had actually fractured his foot. Cantu was placed on the disabled list the next day and would be on it for 6 weeks. He had a quick rehab at Montgomery and returned on June 6th. When Cantu was placed on the DL, he was hitting .291 with a .355 OBP. He would finish the season hitting .249, with a .295 OBP. He did manage to hit 14 HR.
2007 brought more disappointment for Cantu. For the first time since 2004, he wasn't on the opening day roster. Cantu requested to be traded and threatened to not report to Durham, but when Opening Day came around, Cantu retracted his demand. He would be called up on April 24th, when Third Baseman, Akinori Iwamura was placed on the 15-day DL. For the 1st time in he career he played First Base, which made it so he had played all infield positions except Pitcher and Catcher. Cantu's playing time was diminished when Iwamura came back. Cantu could never get the back consistently going. On July 20th, the Devil Rays DFA'd Outfielder Dustin Mohr and optioned Cantu down to Durham and called up relievers Scott Dohmann and Jae Kuk Ryu. It was clear the team was ready to move on from Cantu and on July 28th, the Rays made a couple of franchise altering moves. They traded Seth McClung to the Milwaukee Brewers for Grant Balfour, they sent Ty Wigginton to the Houston Astros for Dan Wheeler. Jorge Cantu's trade however, was not franchise altering. The Devil Rays sent Cantu and Minor League OF, Shaun Cumberland to the Cincinnati Reds for pitchers Calvin Medlock and Brian Shackelford. Neither Medlock nor Shackelford would ever appear in another Major League game.
Cantu would go on to have a decent season with the Reds, but was released during the 2007 offseason. He signed a minor league contract with an invite to Spring Training with the Florida Marlins on January 4th, 2008. Cantu hit extremely well in Spring Training and was able to secure an opening day roster spot. He went to hit a career high 29 HR as part of a record setting infield, as each infielder had more than 20 HR. In 2009, Cantu put up another solid offensive season for the Marlins. In 2010, Cantu started off the season with a hit and a RBI in a MLB record, 10 straight games. In July, the Marlins sent Cantu to the Texas Rangers in exchange for Omar Poveda and Evan Reed. Cantu was struggling, but his power was still there and he showed it on occasion and Texas was hoping to add it to their already powerful line-up. The Rangers did make the postseason and advanced to the World Series, eventually loosing to the San Francisco Giants. Cantu played in the ALDS, ALCS, and WS going 0-8, including 0-4 against the Rays in the ALDS.
Cantu became a free agent after the 2010 season concluded and he signed with the San Diego Padres on January 26th, 2011. He would be used mainly off the bench, but unfortunately, his numbers plummeted and he was DFA'd on June 15th and eventually released. On July 30th, the Colorado Rockies signed Cantu and assigned him to AAA Colorado Springs. Cantu hit decently there, but not well enough to merit a call up and at seasons end became a free agent once more. In January of 2012, Cantu signed a minor league deal with Los Angeles Angels, but after only a month at AAA Salt Lake, he opted out of the deal to become a free agent.
Cantu spent the 2013 season playing in the Mexican League with the Tigres de Quintana Roo. Now he is with the Doosan Bears of the Korean Baseball Organization. Cantu certainly possesses the ability to hit at the big league level, just can't quite get it going. Despite putting up solid offensive numbers, Cantu has actually accumulated negative WAR, thanks in part to his down offensive years and abysmal defensive numbers. The 2015 season, Cantu will be 33. It's unlikely, but he may receive another shot in the majors and actually be able to produce.
Some of Jorge Cantu's highlights with the Rays:
Career Stat Line: -0.1 WAR, .271 AVG, .316 OBP, .755 OPS, 104 HR, 476 RBI, 11 SB
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