Sunday, May 26, 2019
Avi's Second Act
Normally, a trade to the Tampa Bay Rays after a decent-sized career in one city is a way of saying "well, it was fun while it lasted."
I mean, I think of Grady Sizemore, Wade Boggs, Carlos Gomez, Greg Vaughn, Johnny Damon AND Manny Ramirez, people like that who've made the most of their accomplishments, and are just out of real options, so they go to the Rays because, like, what's the worst that could happen? And there's varying results. Boggs at least had some fun career moments before fizzling out. But he's one of the few that's made something of it. Hell, if it weren't for this week in Queens, I would have called it Gomez' death rattle.
And going into this season, I thought Avisail Garcia would start as a starting DH/outfield piece in Tampa, lose playing time gradually and end up DFA'd by July. Because I, as well as other sportswriters, incorrectly judge Avi as a one-dimensional power hitter. And while he can hit for power, his contact abilities, when they pop up, are just as good. They popped up in 2017 in Chicago, and they're sure as hell popping up now.
I mean, it helps that he's got 9 home runs, but he's batting .285, is legitimately doing well as an everyday outfielder (he's got a +4 fielding average). Plus, he, Tommy Pham and Kevin Kiermaier make up one of the most consistent outfields in the majors, with all three carrying WARs of 1.5 or higher. It's the kind of thing where you worried for Kiermaier's sanity for a while, as he used to be one of the few highlights of the team, but now that the rest of the outfield's playing as well as he is, it's gotta be fun for him again.
Now, here's the problem: They're ripping through any and all of their catching options one by one. Right now their main options at backstop are Travis D'Arnaud, surprisingly healthy for now, and his .103 average, or veteran Erik Kratz and his .111 average. All other options, including Mike Zunino, Anthony Bemboom, Nick Ciuffo and Michael Perez, are all either injured or demoted. After their starting catcher nearly got the ASG starting nod last year, it's a sorry sign.
Plus, with the exception of Guillermo Heredia, the bench, which was such a sneaky force last year, is basically nonexistent. Maybe they'll promote Nate Lowe again, and he'll be of service late, but...this roster is seeming pretty thin for once, which is sad considering how prosperous this team seemed in April. They're still good, but losing some series' to the Yankees has definitely weathered them, and hopefully they can figure out how to get back to...at least Wild Card levels of success.
Coming Tomorrow- The single most ubiquitous player of the offseason FINALLY gets an updated custom.