Over the weekend Matthew covered the American League East race, meanwhile the Tampa Bay Rays made a few moves to make the last fourth of the season a bit more interesting.
The Rays catching tandem of Dioner Navarro and Michel Hernandez combined for the lowest wOBA in the league at .262 or a .227/.262/.335 line. Enter Gregg Zaun, acquired from the Orioles for cash and a player to be named later, the veteran journeyman is hitting .243/.351/.370 and represents an offensive blizzard compared to the snow globe the Rays were previously trotting out there. If you assume Zaun gets most of the remaining ~200 plate appearances and hits to his ZiPS projection (.321 wOBA) he represents a ~3-4 run improvement over Navarro’s projected performance.
Along with being a patient hitter capable, Zaun has a reputation of being a decent defensive catcher. We don’t attempt to quantify defense, but everyone who has attempted agrees with conventional scouting that Zaun is a good defender minus an iffy throwing arm. Navarro on the other hand has struggled with actually catching the ball at times and questions about his ability to do the small things behind the plate were intensified with Hernandez’ presence. Whether or not the difference is worthwhile or not is just gravy to the offensive upgrade.
As if one veteran addition wasn’t enough, the Rays claimed Russ Springer on waivers and were granted his services on Saturday. Springer comes from Oakland where his 3.39 FIP was surprisingly met with his highest HR/FB% in years. Somehow Springer’s BABIP is .400 despite 60% fly balls. Major league average BABIP on fly balls is .138 while Springer’s is .174. His groundballs and line drives are becoming hits more often than league average as well, but he’s heading to a team loaded with stout outfield defenders like Carl Crawford, B.J. Upton, and Gabe Gross. For some reason I don’t see that BABIP sticking the rest of the way.
Neither move is going to catapult the Rays over the Red Sox or Yankees, but they’ve been super active on the waiver wire for the second consecutive year. Who says the acquisition madness ends on July 31st?