The Rays’ decision to option Nate Lowe back to Triple-A Durham following the trade deadline was a “very tough call,” manager Kevin Cash tells Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. With the acquisition of Jesus Aguilar, however, the Rays had three first basemen on the roster and Ji-Man Choi’s lack of minor league options once again came into play. Tampa Bay seems loath to risk losing Choi on waivers, but Lowe has handily outperformed him at the plate so far, hitting .294/.362/.510 to Choi’s .265/.361/.423. Choi has shown better knowledge of the strike zone, but Lowe nevertheless appears to be the better offensive option between the two (even if he’s had some good fortune in terms of a .362 average on balls in play). Cash expects that Lowe will be back up with the club “soon,” but that redundancy will eventually be an issue the Rays need to address.
More out of the AL East…
- Trey Mancini remains in Baltimore after the trade deadline, but the decision not to move him doesn’t mean an extension is the next step for the slugger. “Looking at contract extensions is just not at the forefront of my plate right now,” Orioles general manager Mike Elias tells MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko, “but certainly he’s an attractive guy to have here for a while.” It’s not the first time that Elias, hired to spearhead the Orioles’ rebuild this offseason, has suggested that he views Mancini as a potential long-term piece. But Mancini is already controlled through 2022 — his age-30 season. Given that he won’t even reach arbitration until this winter, there’s simply not much urgency to extend Mancini, even if he’s in the midst of the best season of his young career. Through 443 plate appearances, Mancini has posted a robust .282/.343/.539 slash (130 OPS+) with a career-high 25 home runs. Elias also praised the recent play of outfielder Anthony Santander the manner in which he has begun to establish himself as a viable big league hitter.
- The Blue Jays have a crowded outfield mix, but newly acquired Derek Fisher is going to get regular playing time and an opportunity to establish himself as a fixture in the Toronto outfield, Shi Davidi of Sportsnet writes. Most of Fisher’s reps will come in center or right field, as Toronto doesn’t want to disrupt Lourdes Gurriel Jr.’s transition to left field (or his offensive breakout). That leaves Fisher, Teoscar Hernandez, Randal Grichuk and Billy McKinney vying for playing time between center, right and occasional reps at DH. Hernandez has been on an otherworldly tear, clubbing seven homers and three doubles in his past 15 games, which should help to keep him in the lineup. If there’s to be an odd man out, McKinney seems the likeliest candidate, given that he has minor league options remaining. But the semi logjam also serves as a reminder that Randal Grichuk hasn’t performed anywhere near as well as hoped in the first season of the head-scratching extension to which the Jays signed him back in April. He’s played solid defense, but Grichuk hasn’t exactly seized an everyday role with his .232/.290/.418 batting line.