Multiple reports have linked the Rays to Brian Fuentes since Tuesday, so their interest in the left-hander appears legitimate. Let's start to determine whether there's a fit here by analyzing the Rays' needs and Fuentes' asking price:
What Fuentes can offer the Rays
- The Rays' 'pen features new faces like Joel Peralta and Adam Russell, but lacks a clear late inning option for Joe Maddon. Fuentes, a four-time All-Star, could be an effective closer in 2011. He posted a 2.81 ERA with 8.8 K/9 and 3.8 BB/9 last year, saving 24 games.
- He's durable enough to have appeared in over 45 games for eight consecutive seasons.
- Fuentes would also balance out the team's bullpen, which lacks established southpaws now that Randy Choate has signed with the Marlins.
- He's a fly ball pitcher, but Tampa is not a bad destination for pitchers who induce lots of fly balls, since the Rays outfield ranked third in baseball in UZR/150 last year. That stat takes Carl Crawford's standout defense into consideration, but remember that the candidates to replace Crawford are capable defenders. Matt Joyce's defense was strong in limited 2010 action and Desmond Jennings has a reputation as an athletic defender, too.
- Fuentes is quite effective against lefties, but against righties his walk rate rises (to 4.2 BB/9 in his career) and his strikeout rate dips (to 9.2 K/9 in his career).
What the Rays can offer Fuentes
- They probably can't offer more than $5MM per season on a multiyear deal, but that's what Fuentes is looking for, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. They can offer him the chance to close games, an opportunity that only certain teams can offer.
- Fuentes has reportedly drawn interest from 11 teams, but not all of them can offer him a role on a contender. The Rays won't be the favorites to win the AL East in 2011, but could contend for the playoffs.
The price figures to be a point of contention for the Rays and Fuentes' representatives at Beverly Hills Sports Council. But from a baseball standpoint, the match makes sense. The Rays could balance out their righty-heavy 'pen with Fuentes, who could become the team's go-to reliever in critical late-inning situations.