The Tampa Bay Rays were in need of a big bat this offseason. There were widespread rumors all winter that they were connected to some of the fiercest sluggers in the game. They failed to sign Josh Donaldson and then were too slow on Nelson Cruz. There were rumors circulating that they had traded for Edwin Encarnacion, but that turned out to be a false report.
In January, it seemed the Rays had massively misplayed their cards as there weren’t any big names left on the market, and eventually it was reported that the Rays were closing in a one year deal with veteran outfielder Avisail Garcia, who was coming off an injury plagued season with the Chicago White Sox.
Garcia had always had immense potential, as he was a big man who could also run. He’d hit for plenty of power and didn’t strikeout all that much. He was the perfect prototype for an above average player; however, he had rarely succeeded much at the major league level, with the exception being his All-Star campaign in 2017. The following season was plagued by a knee injury,
Now, 40 games into the 2019 season, it seems the Rays have made the right decision by signing Garcia, even if he may not have been on many radars before last night’s blast:
Yes, some of other players the Rays pursued may be off to better starts, but the Rays are getting Garcia’s production at a bargain of a price, as he is only guaranteed to make $3.5M this season, with a max of up to $6M in bonuses.
At this point in time, Avisail Garcia has already provided the Rays with enough value to make the contract worth it as he has hit .296/.358/.519 with 7 HR over 148 plate appearances. He has also accrued 1.2 fWAR and 135 wRC+ over his 35 games played.
Garcia has actually played better up to this point than he did during the first half of his All-Star season in 2017, tapping into even more power. During the first half of 2017, Garcia hit .310/.353/.497 with a 127 wRC+ (before really taking off in the second half). Comparing the two halves, 2017 and today, Garcia is currently getting on base more and hitting the ball with a bit more power.
It’s not just offensively that Garcia is contributing, either, as he has been one of the better defenders in the outfield as well. Not just the Rays outfield, any outfield.
Garcia has totaled 3 DRS, which puts him among the top 22 qualifying outfielders in the game, despite having played a significantly lower number of innings with the glove. Furthermore, Statcast has Garcia rated at 4 outs above average, which is fourth in the majors (Kevin Kiermaier is first with 7).
The Rays currently hold a record of 25-15, and a decent part of the hot start is in thanks to the contributions made thus far by Avisail Garcia.