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Should the Rays claim Dayan Viciedo?

He's the ideal candidate for a DH platoon. He's also expensive for the short side of a DH platoon.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Two days ago, the White Sox signed utility infielder Gordon Beckham, and designated outfielder Dayan Viciedo for assignment. That means that major league teams now have an opportunity to claim Viciedo. Whoever wins the claim then has to either work out a trade with the White Sox or receive him outright at his current salary of $4.4 million. Alternately, if no one submits a claim, Viciedo may either accept his assignment or opt out of his contract, in which case teams would be able to deal with him directly as a free agent.

The original title of this article was "The Rays Should Claim Dayan Viciedo," but it's actually more complicated than that. Offensively, he's a slam dunk for the Rays. Tampa Bay is a lefty-heavy offense at the moment, and Viciedo is a powerful right-handed bat with a wider-than-average split.

Consider these regressed platoon split projections* for the Rays + Viciedo against different handed pitching (set in a neutral park, so Viciedo is not receiving preference for playing in The Cell).

Against RHP:

Batter Handedness Projection
Evan Longoria R .341
John Jaso L .338
James Loney L .332
Steven Souza R .325
David DeJesus L .324
Nick Franklin S .316
Kevin Kiermaier L .316
Asdrubal Cabrera S .310
Dayan Viciedo R .309
Brandon Guyer R .306
Desmond Jennings R .304
Logan Forsythe R .289

Against LHP:

Batter Handedness Projection
Evan Longoria R .366
Steven Souza R .349
Dayan Viciedo R .338
Desmond Jennings R .330
Brandon Guyer R .327
Asdrubal Cabrera S .323
Logan Forsythe R .318
Nick Franklin S .292
John Jaso L .292
James Loney L .291
David DeJesus L .282
Kevin Kiermaier L .279

Against righties, he should probably sit on the bench, but against left-handed pitching, Viciedo would become the Rays third-best hitter. In fact, his projection against lefties is identical to John Jaso's projection against righties, making them potentially the most symmetrical platoon in the league (and symmetry is beauty, right?).

Just looking at these numbers, it would be easy to swap Guyer for Viciedo on the bench and think that the team had gotten better, but that's not the whole story.

Over 3,179 innings in a corner outfield spot, Viciedo has been around 8 runs below average per the hypothetical 150-game season. It makes sense that Viciedo would struggle to chase down fly balls -- he's listed as 5'11", 240 lbs and his nickname is "The Tank" -- but that's pretty bad, especially in a corner, which is considered one of the easiest spots to play on the field. A team that values defense is not likely to settle for plays like this.

Brandon Guyer, in a much smaller sample size (in which I'd say he passed the eye test), has been above average.

Photo Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

To make the math easy, let's say that both Guyer and Viciedo could play a full season in left field and see 600 plate appearances against only left-handed pitchers. In that case, Viciedo's .338 wOBA would translate (method explained here) to 12.9 runs above average. Guyer's .327 wOBA would be 5.1 runs above average, making the upgrade from Guyer to Viciedo 7.8 runs. So basically, Viciedo hands all of the extra value he would bring to the outfield right back to Guyer once fielding is considered.

Of course, they wouldn't face only lefties in the real world, and against right-handed pitching, the offensive difference between Viciedo and Guyer is narrower. So, while Brandon Guyer (and David DeJesus) can back up the entire outfield and act as platoon bats there when needed, Viciedo can't even be slotted into a corner.

Losing the services of either of the more viable outfielders would become especially problematic if Souza were to begin the season in Durham, or if in-season injuries test the Rays' depth. The only way for Viciedo to bring the Rays extra value would be as the short side of a designated-hitter platoon.

His salary of $4.4 million isn't actually a lot of money in the baseball world, but it's a lot to pay for only 200+ plate appearances. And if Viciedo were to make the team, it would be at the expense of a more versatile player like Brandon Guyer or David DeJesus.

There's power there, and potential too, as Viciedo will only be 26 next season. But it's not as good a fit for the Rays as his offensive numbers suggest.


UPDATE: Feb 2, 2014 - White Sox to release Viciedo, via MLBTradeRumors

The White Sox have requested unconditional release waivers for outfielder Dayan Viciedo, the club announced. Viciedo had been designated for assignment, so this move primarily indicates that he will not bring Chicago any return via trade.

Unless he is claimed, Viciedo will enter the free agent market still shy of his 26th birthday and already having claimed 66 MLB home runs. Of course, in spite of that impressive power, he has failed to reach base at a reasonable clip (.298 career OBP) and is generally rated a sub-par defender.

Viciedo's $4.4MM arbitration salary for 2015 surely provides a significant disincentive to otherwise interested clubs, and makes a claim unlikely. Chicago will remain responsible for about $733K of that sum.

This is surely not the end that either side hoped for when Viciedo signed out of Cuba as an international free agent, receiving a big league contract and $10MM guarantee. Another team will presumably take a shot on Viciedo, who comes with two more years of commitment-free control through arbitration and figures to be available for a minimal financial outlay.


*The regressed platoon split projections were calculated by a tool jointly created by Jason Hanselman of Dock of the Rays and mysef. They are based on the research on handedness splits in The Book and on the work of Bojan Kaprovica, and they use the Steamer projection system. All stats are from FanGraphs. Any errors are my own, and nobody else's.