phpnjt28TAkinori Iwamura tore the ACL in his knee and is out for the season. This injury will have more repercussions than simply reassigning the second base job. Let’s take a closer look at the impact on different individuals in the Rays organization…

Aki Iwamura: The Rays have a 2010 club option on Iwamura for $4.25 million ($250K buyout). The Rays will be over budget next season by $15-20 million and there are other options to play second base (Reid Brignac, Willy Aybay, Ben Zobrist). Simply declining the option would be a good start towards balancing the books.

But can the Rays simply cut ties with a player making less than he is worth? Based on WAR, Iwamura had an average value of $10.9 million to the Rays in ’07 and ’08. So $4.25 million is still a very reasonable amount for a second baseman that plays gold glove caliber defense and gets on base about 35% of the time. Having players like Aki on the roster, players that outperform their salary, is the only way the Rays can stay competitive in the AL East.

Another option would be to pick up the option and then trade Aki. But at this point, it is doubtful the Rays would get fair value for a player that will be coming off of a very serious knee injury.

Reid Brignac: This is Brignac’s shot to prove he can be part of the Rays’ future. Brignac will be out of minor league options in 2010 and the second base job may be the only way for him to stay with the Rays organization beyond this season. So giving Brignac the bulk of the playing time at second base over the remaining 115 games is the simplest solution and requires the fewest changes to the team. It would also help the team decide what to do with Brignc in 2010 and beyond.

Ben Zobrist: Sure he is a super-duper-utility guy, but Zorilla has been recast this season as a power-hitting corner outfielder. So far in 2009, Zobrist has made 33 appearances combined (15 starts) in right field and left field and only 9 appearances (6 starts) in the middle infield. It would be easy to assume that Zobrist would help pick up the slack with increased playing time at second base, but we are not so sure. Joe Maddon loves the new Zorilla and would probably prefer to keep using him in the same manner and fill the missing playing time from someplace else.

Willy Aybar: Aybar’s situation is a cross between Brignac and Zobrist. On the one hand, an opening at second base is a chance to get Aybar’s bat into the lineup on a more consistent basis. In fact, it was Aybar that started at second in the first game after Aki’s injury (Brignac filled in for Jason Bartlett who had the night off). But like Zobrist, Maddon has a plan for Aybar and he may not want to deviate too much from that. Aybar on the bench gives Maddon depth and flexibility, two things he craves above all else.

Andrew Friedman: Boy. Think he is kicking himself for trading Adam Kennedy? The Rays always say they would rather make a move too soon as opposed to too late. But in this case, the Rays traded Kennedy too soon.

Summary: In the end, most of the decisions that are to be made, may hinge on how Brignac performs. If he can handle the job on a most-days basis, it allows Maddon the opportunity to keep using Zobrist in Aybar to their maximum effectiveness and ultimately it could make Aki’s 2010 option expendable.

 
 

10 Comments

  1. Dirtbag Fan says:

    I would call this Brignac’s last stand.

  2. KillaTapes says:

    Aki was one of my favorites on the team. He showed class at all times, and it’s so fun watching him drive the ball into the opposite field gaps. I really hope we can get him back next year, but I know it’s probably a long shot. Heal up Aki!

  3. Rayhawk says:

    I agree, trade Bignac, he still has a good three years to go, and his hitting is awful. At this stage he should be spraying the ball all over the field. Consistently. I didnt like him last year, and after the muffed throw to Aybar, ugh……I do agree that Willy is great off the bench or for injuries.

  4. Trading Brignac would be a good idea. Aki really is a steal at that option price, the problem would be if he’d be in the shape worthy of that money after and injury like that. I think also if we do take Aki back clearing up some budget space could be accomplish by…sigh…trading CC.

  5. Scot says:

    There are several options here. However, what I don’t understand is the necessity of a 13 pitcher roster. In essence, Maddon has only 2 PHs – 9 starters, a back up catcher whom one uses only in emergencies and 2 guys on the bench. I believe they should return one of the relievers to the Bulls. As Earl “the guy who wrote the book” Weaver says, the last pitcher on your staff matters less than that last batter on the bench – the last pitcher is there to clean up when you are either up or down by 8 runs… of course Weaver never met the 2007/2009 Devil Rays – where no lead, for either side, is safe. :)

  6. Dirtbag Fan says:

    I’m actually excited about the opportunity to see Brignac get a shot at a good number of starts.

    If he doesn’t take full advantage of this opportunity he’ll be packing his bags though…

  7. Scot says:

    Aki’s value: Baseball Prospectus modeling suggest Aki’s value is closer to $2.5 million above replacement level. I bet they buy him out.

    Longo’s value > $11 million. There is a reason Scott Borus is very upset with Longoria.

  8. Scot says:

    Finally – What is the story on Bradford? It looks like he is starting some time in single A. Is that correct?

  9. Joe D. says:

    With the word that Bartlett is now on the shelf, I’m thinking a second base platoon is coming with Reid, Aybar and Zobrist, my guess is a 60-30-10 split in Brignac favor, with the 10% going to Zobrist–I’m thinking that Zobrist becomes the most-days RF, maybe not right now with Gross being hot.

    It is rather sad to think that Aki may have played his last game in a Rays uniform he helped bring some great defense to 3rd base prior to Longoria, and played gold glove caliper defense at 2nd in our run to the ’08 AL championship, and was every bit of the team MVP that Jason Bartlett was last season. He’s move to second albeit planned from the get-go when he was signed by the Rays was selfless, and he put in all the preparation work to go along with it, and it was seamless. Aki’s been a great Ray to this point, even if it really was his last game playing in a Rays uniform.

  10. Jim from NPR says:

    Let me get this straight….in maddonese…keeping Aybar’s bat on the bench gives me depth for one at bat a game, is kinda like….his ideas on pitching matchups. I understand we are run like a small market team, because well…..we are a small market team. But do you really thiBrignac is the answer to the Aki question? Let Aybar prove he is a everyday player, here’s a flash…..use A’s bat in a couple of game situations daily instead of here and there. Zorilla stays in rf or dh or spelling someone. When comes back, he stays at ss. You can only manage some much. We have the bats…where in the HELL is the bullpen that was retooled Am I ever glad Trevor Miller is in St. Louis, I agree with you last week Professor, our beloved DEVIL RAYS($1) are back.

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