Commentary

Moves for the AL East

Vladimir Guerrero actually fits in Toronto, Westbrook in New York, and other ideas

Originally Published: February 3, 2011
By Jay Jaffe | Baseball Prospectus
Getty ImagesVlad makes sense for Toronto's 2011 needs.

Pitchers and catchers report in less than two weeks, but many MLB rosters still have some holes -- even in baseball's most expensive division. Here's a team-by-team look at the AL East and moves that should have happened this winter; in some cases, the moves could still happen.

Tampa Bay Rays: Sign Russell Branyan

Even after the recent Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez signings, the Rays have a glaring hole in their lineup at first base. They let Carlos Pena depart as a free agent after a subpar season and appear ready to rely on some combination of lefties Dan Johnson and Casey Kotchman and switch-hitter Ben Zobrist to man first base, an arrangement which doesn't inspire much confidence. Johnson hit a Pena-like .198/.343/.414 in 140 plate appearances with the Rays late last year, with his OBP and SLG virtual ringers for his career marks. Kotchman is coming off a .217/.280/.336 belly flop with the Mariners, and owns an un-first-basemanly .259/.326/.392 lifetime line. Zobrist plummeted from .297/.405/.543 with 27 homers in his breakout 2009 to .238/.346/.353 with 10 homers last year; stationing him at first base would compromise the flexibility he provides manager Joe Maddon, particularly with regards to his spot in a multiposition platoon at second base with Sean Rodriguez and in right field with Matt Joyce. Branyan is a 35-year-old lefty who can mash; he has hit .244/.336/.504 with 56 homers over the past two years while earning less than $3 million in base salary. A career .207/.287/.446 hitter against southpaws, he doesn't solve the platoon problem, but he offers cheap, reliable production -- and he's still available.


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