The Rays’ Next Move | The Process Report

The Rays’ Next Move

By R.J. Anderson //

As it turns out, Grant Balfour going to the 15-day disabled list is the subsequent move. Balfour has played a significant role in the bullpen’s success this year as the shutdown reliever who would enter in tough spots before the eighth inning. He’s expected to miss upwards of four to six weeks, which hurts, but Chad Qualls’ presence should assist in ostracizing the panic surrounding the injury.

The next shoe to drop is probably going to be the promotion of Dan Johnson. He hit his 30th home run of the season earlier tonight and he was the backup plan if the Rays went without acquiring a new hitter. The resulting move is going to affect someone on the roster, with Gabe Kapler looking like the most obvious to go. Here’s the thing: the Rays love Kapler. He’s a great veteran presence and a smart player. He’s having a rough year and he plays sparingly. Most of his troubles are tied to a ridiculous amount of infield fly balls being hit against left-handers, who he generally kills.

It’s not a reach to see Kapler managing an affiliate in the system within the next two-to-three years. That’s how highly those in the organization thinks of him. As such, designating him for assignment and sending him to the minors makes the relationship a bit awkward; what would make more sense is if Kapler “tweaked” his earlier injury and went to the disabled list for 15-days. From there he can go on a rehab assignment and by the time that ends we’ll be in September with expansive rosters.

The other option is for Sean Rodriguez to be demoted. Since the middle of June, Rodriguez has played horribly when he has played. He’s clearly fallen behind Reid Brignac as the every other day second baseman and he’s only in the lineup now because of Ben Zobrist’s injury. Once Zobrist is cleared to play, Johnson could come up as a first baseman with the potential to fill in at any of the corners. That makes the bench outlook like this most days:

INF Willy Aybar
UTL Dan Johnson
C Kelly Shoppach
OF Gabe Kapler

That with Jason Bartlett at shortstop, Brignac at second, Ben Zobrist in right, and Matt Joyce at DH; meaning the Rays would have reserves at every position either in the active lineup or on the bench with or without Rodriguez. He would go down and play every day for Durham while conserving service time and avoiding pressing at the plate when he does play before returning in September.

Either scenario could play out relatively quickly. In the end, the Rays are all about gathering and securing as many assets as possible. Kapler nor Rodriguez may be the difference between winning in October, but they could definitely help the team get there.

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