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Who is Steve Pearce?

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The Rays are set to sign a bargain power hitter with positional flexibility.

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Looks like someone gathered all seven of the dragon balls and was able to have their lifelong wish fulfilled as the Rays are just a passed physical away from signing utility player Steve Pearce to a one year deal.

Pearce is a Florida native, born in Lakeland in 1983, he'll be playing his 10th season in the majors in 2016 and will be 33 years old for the majority of the season. Drafted by the Pirates in 2005 in the 8th round, he made his major league debut in September of 2007. He'd be up and down with the club multiple times over the next four years, never really enjoying prolonged success.

He became a free agent following a disastrous 2011 campaign and then journeyed around to four different organizations in 2012, including two stints with the Orioles, whom he finished the year with. In 2013, he served a bench role for Baltimore, but the following year it all came together as he put up 4.9 WAR and slashed .293/.373/.556 with 21 home runs, good for a 161 wRC+ over 102 games. Mercy.

2015 was a step backwards for Pearce, though, and that's what made him a free agent.


Photo Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

After a poor start to his 2015 campaign, Pearce would eventually find himself on the disabled list with an oblique injury that caused him to miss six weeks. The chart below will show his improvement once returning from the disabled list and playing an everyday role.
PA BB% K% BABIP AVG OBP SLG wRC+
Before DL 193 6.2% 23.3% .264 .227 .290 .392 83
After DL 132 8.3% 18.2% .186(!) .203 .288 .466 103

After returning from the disabled list Pearce showed much better plate discipline, and while his BABIP was exceptionally low, he was able to be an above average hitter leaning on his eight home runs and seven doubles to produce a .263 ISO.

For those calling to add a power option to the lineup Pearce could also be your man, as he's one season removed from 21 HR and still hit 15 HR in his "disappointing" 2015 campaign.

It is reported he will receive playing time as 1B, OF, and DH. The easiest access for at bats will be as the short-side platoon at 1B relieving either Loney or Morrison. For at bats in the OF or DH this could be a depth move in case of injury or ineffectiveness of Jennings, Loney, or Morrison (and that likelihood must be high).

Defensively Pearce has been well above average in posting a +9.1 UZR/150 in 1307 innnings at first base and just above average posting a +1.7 UZR/150 in 1427.1 innings in the outfield. While these are still small samples Pearce has shown he is capable of producing value on the defensive side of the ball, and the Rays aren't a team to take defensive acquisitions lightly.

It takes a player coming off a down year for the Rays to dip their toe in the free agent pool and get a power hitter, but this is one that has the chance to radically augment the roster in situations where the Rays have underwhelming options.

While we don't know the financial impact of this move (he made less than $4 million last season), a one year deal this was a chance the Rays needed to take. With luck there might even be an option for 2017.

The team is expected to wait until next week to make the move official, for some reason...