Multiple sources have confirmed that a topic of negotiation in this off season’s Collective Bargaining Agreement is a 26th roster spot. While it’s still not confirmed that we’ll see that this season, it is interesting to consider the possibilities.
Will the Rays use the spot to roster an additional relief pitcher or a position player? A case could be made for both, but a fan base that has been asking for more offense for years might want the Rays to go with the bat. Personally, I would like to see that as well.
Rostering an additional bat could give the Rays more platoon options in the field to put the best bats in the lineup based on lefty/righty match ups while also providing an additional bat on the bench for later-inning pinch-hit match ups.
While the options are easier to identify for an extra bullpen guy (Gamboa, Stanek, Schultz, Floro, etc.), the position player depth isn’t as clear. The Rays certainly have the depth, but most of it shouldn’t be considered for the opening day roster. Guys like Casey Gillaspie, Willy Adames and Jake Bauers may be the future of the Rays, but the team will likely hold off on adding them to the roster until mid season at the earliest, for development and contract reasons.
That leaves the Rays with only a few options in house. Daniel Robertson was just added to the 40 man roster. He is a 3B/SS/2B type fielder and former top 50 overall prospect that just completed a full season of AAA ball. He took a step back at the level over the first half of the season, but really came around by slashing .287/.426/.434 for a 155 wRC+ over the last 163 PA. He’s a line drive hitter that takes his walks, doesn’t strike out a ton and can field multiple positions. He could do well as a right handed bat that hasn’t shown a significant L/R split throughout his minor league career.
The only other non-catcher position player on the 40 man roster is right-handed Ryan Brett, who didn’t do very well in 2015 while recovering from a shoulder injury, and then missed the entire 2016 recovering from Tommy John Surgery last May. It’s possible he could be healthy and participating in Spring Training. If that is the case, I would expect him to compete for an opening day bench bat role. The Rays didn’t drop him when they made recent roster cuts, so that looks like a vote of confidence his way.
The external options are plenty, but the Rays have yet to make a move. Guys like Matt Holliday, Steve Pearce, and Mike Napoli are still available and may drop into the Rays range of affordability, but they don’t provide the positional versatility of a guy like Daniel Robertson, the affordable in-house option.
It will be interesting to see what the addition of a 26th roster spot does to their price tags, and how the market shakes out for the Rays.
Should the 26th man come to pass, do you think the Rays should roster an additional bat, or use an additional reliever?