Randy Arozarena, infield prospect? The current Rays outfielder began his pro career in Cuba’s Serie Nacional as a second baseman during his teenage days, so his defensive future wasn’t exactly settled by the time the Cardinals scouted him as a Mexican League player. “Some of the question marks at the time were more on profile because he played second base, a tick of third base…and then when we saw him in Mexico when he was eligible to sign he was full-time playing center field and we had great looks there,” Cardinals assistant GM Moises Rodriguez told Baseball America’s Kyle Glaser. “Profile muddled the evaluation a little bit, but as far as strength and twitch in his swing, that was never in question.”
This offensive potential was enough to merit a $1.25MM bonus for Arozarena as part of the Cardinals’ 2016-17 international signing class, though Arozarena has long since left second base behind, and also left St. Louis last winter. The Cards dealt Arozarena to Tampa Bay as part of a multi-player trade that seemingly featured Jose Martinez and pitching prospect Matthew Liberatore as the headliners, yet it is Arozarena who has blossomed as a major piece of the 2020 club. After recovering from a bout of COVID-19 early in the season, Arozarena hit .281/.382/.641 with seven homers over 76 PA in the regular season, and has been even hotter during the Rays’ postseason run.
More from around both the AL and NL East…
- It seems possible that Adam Eaton has played his last game with the Nationals, MASNsports.com’s Mark Zuckerman writes that “you’d think they might prefer another corner outfielder with more pop than Eaton can provide.” Beyond just Eaton’s rough .226/.285/.384 slash line over 176 plate appearances in 2020, the Nats also figure to consider glovework and cost in deciding whether or not to bring Eaton back next year, and neither factor is necessarily in the veteran outfielder’s favor. Eaton’s defensive metrics took a significant step back this season, and exercising his 2021 club option is a $9MM choice for the Nats — Eaton’s option can be picked up for $10.5MM or bought out for $1.5MM. With a lot of money already committed to the 2021 team and several roster issues in need of being addressed, Washington might prefer to spread that $9MM around to multiple areas, though letting Eaton go would create another need in left field.
- Third base is another problem spot for the Nationals, as Todd Dybas of NBC Sports Washington notes. Carter Kieboom didn’t produce in his rookie year, leaving veterans Asdrubal Cabrera and Josh Harrison having to pick up the slack to mixed results. It’s obviously too early to give up on Kieboom, so Dybas suggests that the Nats could just sign another veteran on a short-term contract as a depth option if Kieboom again struggles. Conversely, the Nationals could make a bigger internal move by shifting Luis Garcia to third base, or look outside the current roster for a free agent signing either big (Justin Turner) or more modest (Jake Lamb).
- Gary Sanchez is “the biggest decision of the Yankees’ offseason,” George A. King III of the New York Post writes. Sanchez’s disastrous 2020 season has seemingly cost him the starting catcher job, and it remains to be seen if the Bronx Bombers still consider him as a part of their future. It doesn’t seem likely that the Yankees would simply non-tender Sanchez (owed a raise on his $5MM salary heading into his second arbitration year), yet a trade might not be out of the question. The Yankees would obviously be trying to shop Sanchez when his trade value is at its lowest, King notes, “yet, there is no guarantee the Yankees will ever be in position to sell high on Sanchez.” There is also the matter of finding a replacement at catcher — the Yankees are already looking at a second consecutive year with a big luxury tax bill, so splurging on J.T. Realmuto might not be feasible.