Following the trend of the past few years, the Tampa Bay Rays have been named in a lot of rumors, but rarely does a move actually materialize. Recently, we have seen Carlos Beltran and Andrew Bailey – both reported targets of the Rays – fell off the board, leaving space for a new batch of rumors. One of those rumors came over the Christmas holiday when ESPNDeportes.com (via NBC Hardball Talk) reported that the club was interested in free agent Jorge Posada even though he remains undecided about playing next season. When examining potential designated hitter candidates, Posada was a name I threw out as a possibility.
No longer able to catch on a consistent basis, Posada was limited to DH and a handful of games at first base in 2011. Although it appeared his bat still had plenty life after popping 42 extra-base hits in 2010, he hit just .235/.315/.398 last season – the worst offensive output of his major-league career. By the end of the year, he found himself splitting reps with New York Yankees’ phenom Jesus Montero.
While Posada has declined as an overall offensive performer, he still has value from the left side of the plate. Once upon a time, Posada was a platoon-neutral, switch-hitter; however, in recent seasons his splits have been much more divided. He can still hit plenty from the left side with a three-year slash line of .265/.359/482 as a lefty, but hit just .209/.308/.409 from the right over the same period. There is a small chance he can regain some of his neutrality, but even if he does not, he should be able to hold the strong side of a platoon as a left-handed hitter.
In recent years, Posada has also shown noticeable split in production at home versus on the road. Since the New Yankee Stadium opened in 2009, he has hit .302/.383/.555 in his home ballpark. Meanwhile, on the road, he has been a .209 hitter with a .667 OPS. His most recent production could be a product of his environment; however, there could be some random variance involved. At the same time, Tropicana Field has turned in to an extreme pitcher’s park, making park factors something to take into consideration.
At age 40, Posada is no longer an everyday player; especially when you factor in platoon splits. That said, a productive left-handed bat who can hit right-handed pitching – the dominant hand of the league – and can give you time at DH, play some first base, serve as the emergency catcher, and be called upon as pinch-hitter, should have value to a Tampa Bay team which could use a little bit from all of the above.
With names like Luke Scott still available on the open market, the Rays are still in position to add a DH with offensive potential that is greater than Jorge Posada or even Johnny Damon. However, if there is an unexpected rush on Luke Scott-types, Posada – at a reduced salary – could certainly fill a role; provided he is used in a manner that highlights his remaining strengths as a hitter.