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.

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21 Comments

  1. Not sure how this all works--but if we start Aybar on the DL for the season, we can put Blalock on the 25 man past April 1st, then send him down and he loses his option to opt out right?

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    • Andrew Friedman called the opt-out clause "convoluted." so I doubt they can get tricky. But he did say the team wouldn't stand in the way if he has a shot elsewhere. Sodoes that mean he can only opt-out if he proves he has another team interested in giving him a job?

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      • Justin says:

        I hate the idea of letting him go free.

        Remember when we let that second baseman(I forget his name) go to the Athletics last year, and then we lost Aki to injury? We needed him!

        To add insult to injury this player then essentially beat us when Oakland came to the Trop.

        Letting a player just go somewhere else seems like a bad idea all around. Even if we don't see a clear use for him on day 1.

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        • Matt says:

          It was Adam Kennedy

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        • td says:

          Ben Zobrist worked out awful at 2nd base...

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          • Justin says:

            That has nothing to do with my point. We would have been better served keeping Kennedy on the farm in case we needed him later on. Same with Blalock. Letting these guys go to other teams hurts us when injuries occur, and also can potentially hurt us if we play against teams that sign these players--this can go either way, but Kennedy definitely hurt us in this regard.

            We were lucky that Zobrist could play a competent 2nd base. But again, we would have been better served being able to choose where we wanted to play Zobrist (how many positions did he play last year?) given the next in line was Aybar--ugh.

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  2. Interesting. I've never been overly comfortable with Willy Aybar at 1st base for more than a day or so. I wonder if this signing is also to have someone ready to step up in case Carlos Pena is traded. The Rays lack of depth at 1st was exposed last year when Pena went down. Maybe they're preparing... just in case.

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  3. Mike says:

    From The Heater:

    Though Maddon said Blalock's chances to be on the 25-man opening day roster were "probably not very good right now,'' he pointed out how things can change given injuries, etc.

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  4. Don says:

    Good...now we have at least 3 or 4 players NOBODY else wants/wanted:
    Burrell (for $9mil), Kaplar, Blalock, Benoit.....bunch of pitchers..
    None of these players should even be here...
    Now... talk about getting of Aybar who is in the top 5 hitters on the team..
    Blows my mind..we have to deal in these over the hill players, that of course... have to be paid...plus we have the young talent....are they suppose to sit on bench till these guys die?? What a joke!

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    • Justin says:

      I agree. It seems like we have a large number of mediocre players right now, and we're being forced to choose between them.

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    • td says:

      You're a joke. Benoit is great when healthy and Kapler is an excellent 4th OF due to his ability to hit lefties and play good defense. And how are they saddled with Blalock? They can get rid of him if he doesnt work out...

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  5. marty d. says:

    Someone tell maddon that platoons only work in the army. Bartlett needs a consistent second baseman to work with. 2008-Bartlett and Aki. Great 2009-Bartlett anmd whoever. You know the story. Same in right fiels.Probably wants to platoon at catcher also. Another third place year.

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  6. Don says:

    Dear td: If we cut/released Benoit/Kaplar/Blalock tomorrow..... NOBODY would pick them up except last place teams.... and offer them min. wages for major league players....
    MY POINT again is:"what are we (Rays) doing messing with them and giving them money...all of them make more than Zobrist our MVP!
    If I was Zo I would want to kill somebody!

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    • td says:

      Look at Mark Kotsay's contract. He has the same role Kapler does, and he doesnt do it as well. I dont know why I'm arguing with someone that is clearly an idiot. Blalock and Benoit both got minor league deals, and the Rays dont have to pay Blalock unless they want to keep him.

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      • Don says:

        What exactly does Kaplar do well??? Hit .220, make errors, base running
        mistakes....which one or all three??
        I seen him fall down chasing a fly ball in CF Sunday, and he doesn't have a hit yet in spring training.... but don't worry he will help us!
        I just can't figure out how!

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  7. Actually I believe he has at least 1 option and he might have 2. He used one in '06. I was told by the Rays that he DID NOT use one in '07. In '08 he wasn't in the minors for 20 days so he did not use one then and he was never in the minors in '09. The only one I'm not sure about is 2005. Was he added to the 40man at the beginning of the year or when he was called up in September? If it is the latter, he has 2 options left.

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  8. Yeah, I remember reading once that Aybar had one too. Forget where, I will try and track it down today. I just think that Blalock will be hands down a better option than Burrell--maybe we find someone to bite on him, ship him out of town, and keep both Aybar and Blalock on the roster...how is Aybar at second?

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  9. (Re: Aybar at 2B) he is good enough that Maddon let him play there 28games last year. But he was pretty awful in those 28 games ( -3 UZR). So he is really an "only if everybody else is dead" option* at 2B.

    *Might be exagerating

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