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Surveying the market for right-handed hitters

And the Rays desperate need to add one...

Tampa Bay Rays v Baltimore Orioles
Hanser Alberto #57 of the Baltimore Orioles celebrates after hitting a solo home run during the fourth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on August 24, 2019 in Baltimore, Maryland. All players across MLB will wear nicknames on their backs as well as colorful, non-traditional uniforms featuring alternate designs inspired by youth-league uniforms during Players Weekend.
Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images

Older generations of Koreans thought left-handedness was ominous. It is also interesting to know that the “right” hand in Korean has the same double-meaning as the word “right” in English — the Korean word is “accurate,” in English it means “correct.”

If anything ever broke that trend, it was left-handed baseball players, who are favored in Korea. Hyun-Jin Ryu was originally a right-hander, but was turned into a left-hander by his parents. And now he’s going to be rich, whenever he finds his next contract.

According to Marc Topkin and our own JT Morgan, the Rays remain in search of right-handed batters, but I’m trying to figure out what it means to get a right-handed hitter. Does it matter that there are many left-handed hitters on the Rays roster? I think it possibly doesn’t.

  • Rays LHB vs RHP: 113 wRC+ (7th)
  • Rays LHB vs LHP: 94 wRC+ (11th)

The Rays have been good against RHPs by using LHBs, and LHB have been relatively effective in dealing with LHP. Per Jared Ward’s recent analysis of Tampa Bay’s recent addition Tsutsugo, he had been decent against LHB too, increasingly so:

Tsutsugo

Furthermore, the Lefty vs Lefty matchup advantage across the MLB is gradually decreasing. And with the new relief pitcher rules likely reducing the place for LOOGY pitchers on rosters, having many LHB are unlikely to be a big problem.

But that’s all theoretical. If you dive in, it seems the Rays do have a problem in finding RHB’s who can hit vs LHPs.

  • Rays RHB vs RHP: 95 wRC+ (11th)
  • Rays RHB vs LHP: 104 wRC+ (14th)

Because there are always more RHPs in the baseball world, it is natural for LHBs to have bigger role. And most teams have LHP mashers in their RHB to take on necessary matchup advantages and to give the regular LHB’s a break.

The Rays had those right handed hitters 2019, and they performed in the middle of the pack in comparison to the league, but through the many moves made this offseason, the Rays now have no one.

Gone: RHB vs LHP wRC+ (2019)

  • Tommy Pham - 160
  • Travis d’Arnaud - 131
  • Jesus Aguilar - 130
  • Guillermo Heredia - 114
  • Avisail Garcia - 107

Remaining: RHB vs LHP wRC+ (2019)

  • Yandy Diaz - 160
  • Michael Brosseau - 120
  • Daniel Robertson - 88
  • Willy Adames - 51
  • Mike Zunino - 30

Sadly, Brosseau or D-Rob are among the best RHB option vs LHP the Rays currently have. So, yes, perhaps the Rays should be more desperate than last year to add a couple RHB.

With all of that in mind, let’s take stock of the available RHB’s on the market. Here is a list I have compiled of free agents or trade-able RHB’s who have hit well against LHP (Min. 300 PA vs LHP for 2017~2019).

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Catcher

Houston Astros v Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images
  • Robinson Chirinos - 141 (FA, former Rays player, linked to Rays)
  • Kevan Smith - 120 (FA, bad defender, but bat is decent, cheap option)
  • Welington Castillo - 114 (FA, injury prone, playing at DWL)

Note: Marc Topkin has said the Rays prefer offensive-minded catchers.

Infielder

Tampa Bay Rays v Baltimore Orioles - Game Two
Hanser Alberto
Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images
  • Hanser Alberto - 149 (Cheap platoon player, may be available, Orioles are tanking now)
  • C.J. Cron - 145 (FA, former Rays player, limited to 1B, linked to Rays)
  • Josh Donaldson - 143 (FA, likely to be expensive)
  • Brian Dozier - 127 (FA, good 2B/3B/DH option similar to Howie Kendrick)
  • Edwin Encarnacion - 126 (FA, Old one, limited to 1B, linked to Rays)
  • Starlin Castro - 122 (FA, relatively young veteran)
  • Jonathan Schoop - 118 (FA, relatively young veteran)
  • Todd Frazier - 110 (FA, not a great hitter, but 3B defense is decent)
  • Wilmer Flores - 108 (FA, was linked to Rays last year)

Note: If the Rays add to the infield, there is no room for Wendle and D.Rob

Outfielder

Tampa Bay Rays v Seattle Mariners
Mitch Haniger
Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

Perhaps it’s important to level set with two names who recently changed teams before we look at the candidates.

  • Hunter Renfroe - 138 (We already have him!)
  • Avisail Garcia - 134 (Just signed with Brewers at 2 years/$20m)

Now for the actual candidates...

  • Nick Castellanos - 167 (FA, likely to be very expensive)
  • Mitch Haniger - 132 (Hello, Dipoto!)
  • Stephen Piscotty - 126 (There are rumors A’s wants to sell him, 3 years/$21.5m left)
  • Steven Souza Jr. - 115 (FA, has said he wants to be a Rays player again)
  • Kevin Pillar - 112 (FA, can defend center field well, AL East experience)
  • A.J. Pollock - 111 (Dodgers put him on the trading block, need salary relief)
  • Domingo Santana - 110 (FA, bad defender, may be moved to DH slot)

Note: Technically, Rays have only 3 OFs at 40 man roster now in Kiermaier, Renfroe, and Meadows. Other options like Tsutsugo and O’Grady are infielders by trade...

Other Utility Players

Los Angeles Dodgers v Colorado Rockies
Kike Hernandez #14 of the Los Angeles Dodgers is congratulated by Chris Tayler #3 after scoring on a Joc Pederson 2 RBI single in the sixth inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on June 30, 2019 in Denver, Colorado.
Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Finally, here are four names who are not free agents, but could be pursued via trade should the Rays value multi-positional defense in a part-time, right-handed hitter.

  • Enrique Hernandez - 118 (Dodgers may likewise put him on the trading block)
  • Chris Taylor - 116 (Not on the block, but why not?)
  • Chad Pinder - 111 (Frequently rumored that teams ask on his availability)
  • Ian Desmond - 108 (Danny made me add this one, 132 wRC+ vs LHP in 2019)

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It is not a coincidence that many names listed above are linked to Rays this off season.

Is there anyone on this list that you would like?