12:34pm: The Rays have now announced the signing. Fellow infielder Daniel Robertson was optioned to Durham to clear a roster spot.
12:30pm: It’s a Major League deal for Espinosa with the Rays. (SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo first tweeted as much.)
12:16pm: The Rays are adding veteran infielder Danny Espinosa, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports (on Twitter). Espinosa began the year with the Angels but was cut loose and latched on with the Mariners before being released there as well. Topkin doesn’t specify the type of transaction, though presumably it’s a minor league deal. Espinosa was placed on release waivers five days ago, so he’d already have cleared at this point. Espinosa is represented by MVP Sports.
It’s been a brutal year at the plate for Espinosa, 30, as he’s struggled to a career-worst .164/.237/.279 slash line through 271 plate appearances in the American League West. In his first taste of American League play, the longtime Nationals infielder saw his strikeout rate soar to 36.2 percent as his line-drive rate plummeted to a career-worst 12.9 percent. Espinosa’s hard-hit rate (32.2 percent) is still a bit higher than his career mark (31.1 percent), but the majority of those balls in play have apparently been of the fly-ball or ground-ball variety, as Espinosa checks in north of 41 percent in each regard (41.8% grounders, 45.7 percent flies).
For all of his warts at the plate in recent years, though, Espinosa has terrific career marks in both Defensive Runs Saved and Ultimate Zone Rating as a second baseman and as a shortstop. Neither DRS nor UZR was especially bullish on his work in 2017, grading him as a roughly average glove at second base, but the track record (and the bit of experience he has at the hot corner as well) likely appealed to a Rays club that traditionally places a high value on defensive prowess and versatility.
Whether Espinosa immediately joins the big league club remains to be seen. We’re just a week away from the point at which rosters can expand, so Tampa Bay could conceivably stash him at Triple-A Durham for the next seven days and then bring him aboard to add some bench depth and versatility for the final month of the year.