Marc Topkin tweeted yesterday evening that the Rays signed Ronald Belisario, 32-year-old free agent reliever, to a minor league deal with an invitation to Spring Training. After a presumably failed tryout with the Toronto Blue Jays, Belisario will likely compete for a spot in the Major League bullpen, and will be joined by another piece of infield depth we've suspected the Rays were looking for:
#Rays have signed RHP Ronald Belisario to minor-league deal, are likely to also sign INF Alexi Casilla. Both will compete for jobs in camp— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) 31 Janvier 2015
A career 3.74 ERA pitcher, Belisario struggled last year with the White Sox, posting a 5.56 ERA, averaging 6.38 strikeouts per nine and allowing a .339 oppBABIP in the hitter-friendly US Cellular Field ballpark.
As Brad Johnson from MLB Trade Rumors pointed out, he is a ground ball specialist with a "career rate above 60 percent", which could certainly help balance out the Rays bullpen after finishing the 2014 season with the highest fly ball percentage in the big leagues.
Topkin also stated that there are two open spots in the bullpen and that Belisario have a "good chance" of winning one of them. Indeed, after a dreadful 2014 year (which included eight saves for the South Side baseball team), the Venezuelian pitcher could bounce back in 2015 and put up numbers more in accordance to his career 3.61 FIP. McGee's elbow surgery will open opportunity, and the Rays may be reticent to give the final slot to a rookie out of Spring Training.
Marc Topkin also reported that the Rays were closing in on a deal with Alexi Casilla, the 30-year-old free agent infielder. Stating that he could be in the mix for a middle infield job (however unlikely he would win), Topkin also evoked the possibility that Tampa Bay could acquire a starting shortstop in the near future.
This has been one of Topkin's drums this off-season, insisting the Rays are still searching for a more sure thing than Nick Franklin in the middle infield. We shall see if another move comes to pass, as Matt Silverman relayed to Topkin:
"As we get closer to camp, we have a good sense of the depth that we have as well as a couple areas of potential need. Hopefully we can find ways to line up with other clubs to improve ourselves, but it's not a necessity."
Casilla can man anywhere in the infield, but earned just four plate appearances with Baltimore last season.