The Case for Gary Sheffield in a Rays’ Uniform | The Process Report

The Case for Gary Sheffield in a Rays’ Uniform

Tucked behind the news and rumors of the winter meetings, Gary Sheffield expressed interest in playing next season – and doing so for the hometown Tampa Bay Rays. The idea of Sheff taking a farewell lap with the Rays has been mentioned before, but has never materialized into anything more than speculation.

I’m no doubt in the minoriy, but I could see a potentia fit now. It seems highly unlikely that the Rays would hold serious interest in bringing back a 42-year-old player – especially after sitting for an entire season – but highly unlikely is the Rays’ way, and for the price (assuming close to minimum contract) there is little risk involved.

If there was a deal, there would be much talk about Sheffield being a malcontent and how he would have a negative impact on young players. While this could be completely true, it could also be misconception. Since I’ve never played on a team with Sheffield, I’ll reserve judgement on his clubhouse character.

What we can analyze is production on the field. That said, after a year of inactivity it is hard to speculate on what Sheffield will do going forward. Meanwhile, in his last season (2009) with the Mets he played in 100 games. In just over 300 plate appearances, he hit .276/.372/.451 with 25 extra-bast hits including 10 home runs. His .175 ISO (isolated power) and .823 OPS were both above the league average.

In addition to showing some decent pop for a 40-something, Sheffield continue to show a disciplined approach at the plate. He walked more than 12% of the time while striking out in less than 18% of his at-bats. His O-Swing (percentage of swings at pitches outside the strike zone) was 5% below league average and he whiffed on just 4.9% oh pitches thrown.

The Rays received a cumulative slash line of .238/.322/.391 from the designated hitter position last year. Even if we regress his stats down for age, a year off, and a move to DH, Sheffield would likely be an upgrade from the 2010 production – although that might not be quite the compliment.

With the reported interest in Jason Giambi, the notion of Sheffield in a Rays’ uniform might not be so crazy. There are the clubhouse things and Sheffield did have some back issues, but those are things for Andrew Friedman, Joe Maddon, and the medical staff to work out. If they sign off on his character and health, that’s good enough for me.

Like Giambi, they’re are no doubt better options. Come January, names like: Manny Ramirez, Nick Johnson, and Hideki Matsui may still be available. At the right price, those would qualify as better options. If not – at the minimal cost of a non-roster invite. – you could do worse than Sheffield. Just look at last year’s designated hitter “production” for proof of that.

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