Rays Need to Trade Bartlett Now

December 1, 2010 at 1:02 pm 1 comment

Jason Bartlett

I’m pretty sure we all know the Tampa Bay Rays’ situation by now.  In short, they are a small-market team that spent too much money last year and need to cut payroll significantly.  They cannot afford to retain top free agent Carl Crawford or All-Star closer Rafael Soriano.  They also may not be able to retain Grant Balfour and have already lost Joaquin Benoit to free agency.  Needless to say, they have holes to fill while trying to cut payroll by $25M-$30M.

One way they can cut extra cost is to trade starting shortstop Jason Bartlett.  The market for shortstops is very thin, so thin that it netted career .300 OBP Juan Uribe a 3yr/$21M deal and Miguel Tejada a $6.5M contract to be a starting shortstop.  Uribe at least has value in his bat, glove, and versatility but Tejada may be a downgrade from a Jason Bartlett.

Bartlett, after making $4M in 2010, is due for an arbitration raise of over $5M.  If his agent is smart, he will use Tejada’s deal as a starting point for negotiations.  Over the last two years Tejada has hit .291/.326/.418 with an OPS+ of 100 (league average) in 1354 plate appearances while playig mostly thirdbase.  Bartlett, in the same time frame, has hit .288/.358/.423 with an OPS+ of 111 in 1099 plate appearances while playing all his games at short.  In that same time frame Tejada has grounded into 45 double plays and stolen 7 bases while Bartlett has only grounded into 11 double plays and stolen 41 bases.  The comparisons aren’t even close, meaning the Rays may owe Bartlett much more than $5M predicted by “experts” in 2011.

The Rays seem ready to hand the starting shortstop job to Reid Brignac and, in my opinion, they should.  He is making close to the league minimum and is a much better defensive shortstop (UZR/150 of 14.0 in 2010) with more power (career ISO of .135 compared to Bartlett’s .105) and higher overall offensive upside if he learns better pitch recognition.  A full season of Brignac should yield a 2.0-2.5 fWAR season, conservatively.

The Rays deperately need bullpen help.  The Rays desperatley need to cut payroll.  In my opinion, they need to trade Bartlett now for cheap bullpen help and save the money and pray the market stays away from Grant Balfour because of his Type A status.

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