In a environment where finding quality middle infielders is a rare occurrence, the Rays are sitting pretty with Jason Bartlett as a trading chip.
Tampa is likely to trade away Bartlett, as the 31-year-old (birthday on Oct. 30) is slipping in production while his salary is certain to rise from the $4 million he made in 2010. He has one final year of arbitration left before hitting free agency, but among a team mandate to slash payroll and with a ready replacement at short in Reid Brignac (plus possibly Sean Rodriguez) could usher Bartlett out the door.
Bartlett held his own at the plate while with the Twins, giving the club superior defense. In his first campaign in Tampa Bay in the 2009 season, he hit .320, which hid a slipping defense. However, that defense seems to have slipped further while he produced the worst offensive campaign since 2005, his rookie season where he amassed 252 plate appearances.
2010: .254/.324/.350 in 532PA, 11 SB, 6 CS, -13.8 UZR/150, 2 DRS
Career: .281/.345/.385 in 2,801 PA, 100 SB, 27 CS, 4.5 UZR/150, 40 DRS
WHAT IT WILL TAKE
Even though other teams know just as well as the Rays do that it makes sense for Tampa to deal away the youngster, the Rays won't part with Bartlett easily. There's plenty of holes on Tampa to fill that the club could go in many different directions.One such direction is the bullpen, where the Rays have to do a complete makeover. The outfield, a replacement middle infielder, a first baseman or simply prospects close to the majors could all fit in a Bartlett deal.
WHERE HE COULD GO
The Giants are also in the market for a shortstop, and could offer its own young relievers (Sergio Romo?) or an outfielder in Nate Schierholz. The Rays might also have interest in first baseman Travis Ishikawa.
Other teams in need of shortstops include the Reds, Athletics, Pirates, Padres, Mariners and Cardinals.
A need to slash payroll, a player whose salary is rising but production is declining and a replacement ready to go all spells Bartlett's departure. He will get dealt to the Cardinals, who desperately want to improve shortstop but can't commit long-term dollars to the position until Albert Pujols' contract is resolved.
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