Last night it was announced that Hank Blalock agreed to a one-year deal with the Rays for $925K with up to $350K in bonuses based on plate appearances. There is an opt-out clause in the contract that would allow Blalock to become a free agent if he is not on the 25-man roster on April 1.
Earlier today, when asked why he signed with the Rays, Blalock had a not-too-endearing response…
“Well, I didn’t have any other choice. So that’s why I’m here.”
Marc Topkin clarifies that Blalock is “excited for the opportunity.” Still it sounds like he and Pat Burrell will get along splendidly.
So does Blalock have a shot at making the roster? The bench would seem set with Dioner Navarro, Gabe Kapler, Willy Aybar and either Sean Rodriguez or Reid Brignac.
But something strange happened today.
Topkin reportsthat the Rays gave Blalock his customary #9, which was being worn by Elliot Johnson this spring (Johnson will switch to #37). This may mean nothing, or it may mean everything.
It is unusual for a non-roster invitee to be given their usual number if it is already being worn by another player. Typically a switch is only made if the player makes the opening day roster. This move might suggest that the Rays believe Blalock has a good shot at making the team.
If Blalock does make the team, who is out of a job (assuming no injuries)? The obvious answer is Aybar, who has yet to play this spring with a nagging wrist injury.
When spring training began, Aybar’s job seemed as safe as anybody’s. But with Blalock on board, the next three weeks may be a battle between Aybar and Blalock for a spot on the Rays bench. And Blalock may already have a slight edge.
Then again, Blalock smells more like Morgan Ensberg than Carlos Pena.