Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Just Say No To Lofton

I'm all about signing veterans to fill important gaps for a contending team. What I don't like is when a young team, who is a couple of years away from seriously contending, entertains the idea of signing a vet when that vet blocks the path of a skilled younger player. In this instance I'm talking about the Rays possibly bringing in Kenny Lofton when they have the recently sent down Justin Ruggiano.

With Baldelli being (shockingly) injured the Rays are left with Cliff Floyd, Jonny Gomes and Jon Weber as the Right Field options. Floyd is going to be the main DH until he strains and pulls something, Gomes can mash left handed pitching and is a disaster in the field, and Jon Weber is Jon Weber. All Ruggiano has done in his Minor League career is go .307/.396/.508. Last year in 482 at bats at Durham he hit 20HR with 73RBI. Yes he strikes out a ton, but so do a lot of players. The strikeout isn't that important of a stat when you're lifetime OBP is close to .400.

This is nothing against Lofton. For an almost 41 year old outfielder, he's quite good. As Rob Neyer points out, since turned 35 in 2002 "Lofton hasn't finished a season with an OPS+ higher than 109 or lower than 95, which means he's essentially maintained his league-averageness without missing a single beat." Ruggiano is almost 26 and is faster now than Lofton and also has much more power, which is what you normally want from a corner outfield spot. Also, Lofton earned $6million last year. I'm not saying he'd demand a deal of that size again, but would you rather spend 2-3 million for one year of Lofton or a couple hundred thousand for a younger, faster, stronger player in Ruggiano? I know which option I'd choose.

I'm officially starting the Ruggiano in Right bandwagon. Who's with me?