Last year the Tampa Bay Rays were looking for certain things in the off season that they assumed they had when they picked up Pat Burrell's 26 HR per season average and 90 RBI's. They knew his batting average would be low, but would accept the offensive production. Unfortunately, as local fans know all too well, Pat Burrell did not live up to his expectations last year. For various reasons his numbers dropped and due to injuries he had his fewest at bats since his rookie season. So what can a cash strapped team like the Rays do? They have to hold on and put their faith back in a driven Pat Burrell and they have to keep in mind they can't afford another season of low production. Basically, the Rays need insurance. Say hello to Hank Blalock.
Hank Blalock was easily the Rays biggest free agent acquisition. He is still relatively young and he has put up Pat Burrell-esque numbers. Blalock's career .269 batting average is better than Burrell's .254. Blalock has hit for 25 homers or more 4 times in his 9 year career. His RBI aren't as high as Burrell's but Blalock has cracked 110 RBI in a season. In the same amount of games last year both players had similar numbers. Low batting averages, high strikeout rates, 60-70 RBI range. Where they differed were the home runs. Burrell had 14, nearly half as many as the 30 the season prior. Blalock had 25, more on par with his better career years. He had his prior two seasons shortened by injuries as he played a combined 123 games batting .290 22 HR's and 71 RBI. In a lineup this potent, those home runs can add on a lot more RBI.
Should Hank Blalock crack the roster on Opening Day, there is a great chance he could be counted on to fill roles shared through the years by Eric Hinske, Gabe Gross, Gabe Kaplar and at other times, Ben Zobrist. Similar to how Zobrist found his way into the starting lineup, Blalock is capable of handling platoons throughout the corners of the infield. On days when Carlos Pena or Evan Longoria would need to catch a break, he could fill in and still replace some of the power in the lineup. Another example, although extreme is today's projected lineup of Blalock at first, Pena at DH, and Burrell at right. The more realistic lineup would involve either Blalock or Burrell at DH.
It's important that at least one of these two fulfill their expectations and ideal that BOTH would perform up to par. The addition of Blalock could once again make Matt Silverman and Andrew Friedman look like genius' if it were to pay off.