In January, the Rays answered the issue at first base choosing not to re-sign Casey Kotchman, but to re-sign a former fan favorite. The Rays signed Carlos Pena to a one year contract, bringing him back to his former home for four years. Pena played with the Rays form 2007-2010. Through those years he hit .238 with 144 homers and 407 RBI’s. Pena was a main leader in Tampa back through these years, and helped his team to it’s first winning seasons of it’s franchise history. Along with that, Pena also lead them to their first and second AL East title, but also the Rays first ever American League Pennant in 2008. Pena also played great defense over at first base, he won a Gold Glove for first base in the AL in 2008.
It was great to see Carlos Pena come back, but the Rays were not done there. They had a DH spot that needed to be filled. Instead of bringing back Johnny Damon, once again they turned to the free agent market and picked up Luke Scott to a one year deal. Scott played for the Baltimore Orioles for four years, missing a lot of the season last year with a torn labrum. Scott’s only 34 and brings a lot more power to the table than Johnny Damon could have produced. With the injury to Scott, he was looking to use his bat more for the next season and not his defense. So becoming the Rays DH role instead of fielding worked out great for both Tampa and Scott. All this seems all happy and nice, but what happens to Damon and Kotchman? Why do they just get the short end of the stick? And is this move overall better for the Rays? Well to answer the first question, Kotchman signed a contract with the Cleveland Indians and will be joining the Tribe this season. Johnny Damon remains a free agent, but is in talk with several teams. When you look at the moves overall, it is understandable that some people are upset with these moves. I asked my self right way, are these moves better for the Rays or not? Well I went to take a statical view of things like I normally do. I have recently taken up a new view and respect for on-base percentage (OBP). I believe it is a really helpful tool in determining the real value of players. When you replace players, hitting wise, you need players with high on-base percentages. So when you replace players, take their OBP and divide it by how many players you have. Last season, Kotchman and Damon had a average OBP of .352 for 6.2 million dollars. Pena and Scott’s average OBP was .329 for 16 million dollars. On the surface this already looks like a bad move for Tampa. We're getting on base less for more money. However, you have to remember that Luke Scott was injured almost the whole season in 2011 with a torn labrum. The Rays are expecting Scott to have a year like his 2010 season when he was healthy. If Scott plays like his 2010 season, than his and Pena’s average OBP is bumped up to .363, which is higher than Kotchman and Damon. You could look at their careers as well, Kotchman and Damon average a .275 average with a .346 OBP., while Pena and Scott only average .251 with a .327 OBP. If you look at the runs they score, Pena’s 2011 numbers with Scott’s 2010 numbers are 71 average runs a year. Casey Kotchman and Johnny Damon only average 61 runs in 2011. I have also been looking a lot on projections for this coming year. If all goes projected according to MLB.com, Pena and Scott will have a average .340 OBP for 12.5 million dollars. Kotchman and Damon will have a .337 OBP. Kotchman’s contract is worth 3 million dollars, while Damon has not signed yet but is seeking 5 mill, so Damon and Kotchman are projected to make about 8 million dollars. Those are some of the ways I looked at.
I would love to hear what you think. Please share your thoughts by commenting below or tweeting me @ASommers5. I look forward to your ideas and what will happen in the regular season.