The reasons for trading Bartlett are clear. This will be his last year of team control, his defense seems to be fading, and he’s coming off of his worst season since he became a regular. Even if one of those things weren’t true, the team also has Reid Brignac coming up behind him. Brignac’s defensive numbers get an incomplete, his plate discipline stats (6.1% walk rate, 25.6% strikeout rate) aren’t very impressive, and the knock is that he can’t hit lefties. Then again, his .214 wOBA against lefties has only come in 74 major league PAs, his defense seemed strong in 2010, and there’s a chance for more power with Brignac. All of this may be moot – Brignac is under team control for another five years and if his defense can be scratch or better, he’s a valuable piece.
So the Rays would deal from surplus to get Reimold, a firstbaseman at best or DH at worst, to fit a need. Trading for a DH that has been underwhelming so far may make many reasonable men nervous – a DH that can’t hit is no major league ballplayer. We can’t close the door on him 143 games into his career, though, even if he’s a little older than one might expect (27) and put up a sub-.400 slugging percentage in Triple-A last year.
What Reimold has shown isn’t actually all that terrible either. He can take a walk (10.9% career, >13% in Triple-A the last two years). He doesn’t strike out a ton (21.7% career, 21.5% MiLB career). As much as his power disappeared in 2010, his rookie season showed a .187 ISO that would make the Rays happy – and his minor league career (.215 ISO) points to some more upside beyond.
Can Dan Johnson do all of this already? After all, his career walk rate (13.3%), strikeout rate (17.1%) and power (.176) all compare favorably with Reimold’s numbers to date. As much as batting average is a flawed stat, it’s worth noticing that Johnson hasn’t hit .200 since 2007, .250 since 2005, and has his own platoon split issues. He’s no sure thing, and even if he were, the team still needs a DH.
What about the free agent market? There are certainly some options left available, but with Lance Berkman getting $8 million, the Rays may have to wait the available firstbasemen out a little. The team, according to Jason Collette at the Dock of the Rays and the Process Report, may only have about $14 million to spend, in all. Acquiring Reimold assures them that between him and Johnson they’ve got a chance at one good player at first base or DH – and jettisoning Bartlett saves them almost $5 million. So that improves their chances of finding a strong bat on the market and having money left over for relievers.
The mold says not to trade a shortstop only a year removed from a ~5 WAR season for a DH who slugged under .400 in Triple-A in 2010. In this case, though, it might make sense to break the mold.
And if Alfredo Simon is the sweetener, as the rumors suggest – it’s a no-brainer then.