The Rays made a late pre-season trade last night, moving OF/DH Austin Meadows to the Detroit Tigers in return for a young infielder Isaac Paredes and a draft pick. That infielder goes to the minors, but in a compensating move the Rays will promote top position player prospect OF Josh Lowe.
Here’s what that does for the defending AL East champions:
The Rays prefer to get all of their bench players into the game, but in a simple projection, it’s striking how many players have full-time roles despite a reputation for platooning: Mike Zunino, Brandon Lowe, Yandy Diaz, Wander Franco, Randy Arozarena, Kevin Kiermaier, and Manuel Margot all look to have primary roles.
Reflecting on the most recent playoff roster, the 100-win Rays had most recently deployed Arozarena in right field, the departed Austin Meadows in left field, and the traded-for Nelson Cruz at designated hitter.
It seems likely the Rays place Arozarena back in his primary left field position in most outings without another top tier designated hitter disrupting the Rays outfield merry-go-round. Meadows, by comparison, had made 72 starts in left field in 2021, which is more than Arozarena made last year.
In terms of roster projection, I have Manuel Margot in the starting lineup at designated hitter, but who the DH will be on any day is for Kevin Cash to decide. A right handed hitter, Manuel Margot is more than a platoon outfielder, as he played in 134 out of 162 games for the Rays in 2021, including 104 starts in the outfield (70 in right field, 22 in center, 12 in left).
Underrepresented by the table is how large a role Taylor Walls could take on for the Rays, with the potential to spell Yandy Diaz in the field against right handed pitchers and thereby add to the designated hitter rotation with another option.
For this version of the Rays, which prioritizes defense and resting players, the designated hitter essentially doesn’t exist.
As for the depth, the next players up at each roster position are as follows:
- C: Ford Proctor (L), Rene Pinto (R)
- INF: Jonathan Aranda (L), Vidal Brujan (S), Isaac Paredes (R)
- OF: Luke Raley (L)