July 25, 2012
Rays Boost Their Infield and Matsui Makes Way UPDATED
Roberts’ most impressive attribute is his redoubtable collection of tattoos. When it comes to playing ball, Roberts can bring some value to a club, too. He takes a mature approach at the plate and offers some power that you wouldn’t expect from someone his size (listed at 5-foot-11). Roberts has been particularly effective against left-handed pitchers, with a platoon differential nearly double the typical right-handed batter. Defensively, Roberts brings versatility to the table. He’s played third base, second base, and the corner outfield in recent seasons, though his occasional starts at shortstop ended when he left Triple-A. As an added bonus, Roberts is a fan favorite wherever he goes because of his professionalism and fiery demeanor on the field. You might yearn to use the word “gritty” with Roberts, but try “industrious” instead.
The Rays' roster features two other right-handed infielders in Jeff Keppinger and Sean Rodriguez (who is the only one of the three likely to play shortstop). But Roberts is likely to have a spot on the active roster because Brooks Conrad and Hideki Matsui are also present. It doesn’t seem like a big deal, swapping Conrad or Matsui for Roberts, but the bottom of the Rays roster could use a boost. That Roberts won’t qualify for free agency until after the 2015 season is a nice perk; though, by then, nobody is likely to want him as a player.
To make room for Roberts on the 25-man and 40-man rosters, the Rays designated Hideki Matsui for assignment. This is likely the end of the road for Matsui. Not only did he hit .147/.214/.221 over 103 plate appearances, but he appeared to be cheating fastball—a sign that, at least in his mind, his bat speed had diminished. The Rays will have 10 days to trade, release, or outright Matsui to the minors. It would be a shocker if Matsui isn’t released and subsequently retires.—R.J. Anderson
Acquired UTL-R Tyler Bortnick from the Rays for UTL-R Ryan Roberts. [7/24]
A 16th-round pick in 2009, Bortnick is an undersized grinder who got some minor attention last year when he hit .306/.428/.432 for High-A Charlotte. That was also an older guy repeating the level, and now at 25, he's hitting .253/.352/.385 in 95 Double-A games. Bortnick has an excellent approach, some contact skills and a bit of speed, but he's limited to the right side defensively, and does not project as an everyday player where backups at the position don't exist. —Kevin Goldstein
R.J. Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. Follow @r_j_anderson