We have looked at several outfield acquisition targets in the last couple weeks, but most of those have assumed the Rays were looking to plug their depth or the bench. As Danny recently wrote, the Rays need may benefit more from someone who can split time with Corey Dickerson at LF/DH and, in the case of an injury, take over in Center. The best free agent remaining that fits that category is Colby Rasmus.
Like many Rays targets, Rasmus is coming off a down year and is dealing with injuries, but that shouldn't stop them from making a pact while they still can.
Rasmus spent the majority of last season in left field, where the Rays would utilize him, producing 14 DRS and 11.3 UZR over 672.1 innings, but he was no slouch when patrolling center as well, with a 3 DRS and 1.3 UZR over 124.2 innings.
Despite his great play in the field last season, it was still widely considered a down year for Rasmus.
One year after putting up an 117 wRC+ and 2.9 WAR in 2015, Rasmus slid to a 1.4 WAR showing, was entirely held up by his defensive play in 2016. Possibly due to a cyst in his ear, Rasmus’s production at the plate when into tailspin dropping from a 99 wRC+ to a 4 wRC+ in the second half, and he would lose playing time for surgery.
Something that didn’t change, though, was his overall batting profile. He posses good pop in his bat and has displayed a consistent ability to draw walks (10.3% BB% in 2016, 9.7% in 2015) which helps, as he won't hit for a high average. He only got 105 plate appearances in the second half last season but he was able to relatively sustain his walk and HR/flyball rates, which indicates he hadn’t lost his form.
Also in his favor: from 2012 to 2014 Rasmus played for the Toronto Blue Jays giving him familiarity within the American League East, and with that, experience playing against the teams the Rays play the most. As seen with Steve Pearce and Kelly Johnson before him, previous success within the division is a plus for free agents.
Heading into 2016, Rasmus was a deservedly expensive outfielder, yet to the shock of the Astros, Rasmus accepted a qualifying offer last season setting him up for a one-year $15,800,000 contract. He didn’t receive a QO this season making him a free agent, but the situation may set him up to pursue yet another one-year deal.
According to spotrac, Rasmus market value should be four years and approximately 60 million. I severely doubt Rasmus will receive an offer of that amount based on his offensive production last season, and think he can be signed on a one or two-year contract in the neighborhood of $6-9 million annually to help reset his market.
Because of the logjam for corner outfield/DH types Rasmus’ value may have already dropped into the Rays-zone of commitment. If Tampa Bay could sign him to a Wilson Ramos-esque deal, they should pull the trigger.
Overall, Rasmus offers incredible fielding skills, both at the corner spots as well as in center, with an above average bat and familiarity with the American League East. He is coming off a "down" year, which should allow the Rays to acquire him for a reasonable figure, and that may have simply been due to injury.
Rasmus fits in perfectly with the team needs as an excellent outfielder who can split time with Dickerson in the field, while also providing a capable backup should Kiermaier lose any time to injury again.
The Rays should sign Colby Rasmus, and you should be ecstatic when they do.