One of my favorite pastimes during the offseason is viciously scouring the transaction pages on the web to find out which guys have been left off the 40 man roster and thereby granted free agency. Whether they are too old, can't play defense, or simply just stink; many guys, who have ability are let go after every season. No, signing these players usually will not cause a stir amongst fans or front office personnel, but very often these guys wind up getting their shot to play elsewhere and wind up thriving. Case in point, Rays 1B Carlos Pena. After being thrown to the scrap heap by the Boston Red Sox, Pena signed a minor league deal with the Rays in 2007 and eventually became the Rays starting first baseman and Comeback Player of the Year. Like so many other professions, all some of these guys need is a chance to show what they can do. Many fail, but the success stories sure are sweet.
So today, after glancing through the minor league transactions, one free agent stuck out to me: 2b Ruben Gotay. As some of you may remember, Gotay had a pretty eventful cup of tea with the Mets in 2007 and actually played pretty darn well. Gotay exhibited a quick bat with some power and often came up big when the Mets needed it the most. Gotay hit .295 for the season with 4 homers, 24 RBI, and 12 doubles. Most impressively, Gotay hit .318 against right handed pitching and produced many quality at bats and walks. Fans and front office personnel could see Gotay's offensive potential, but his horrific defense kept Gotay from claiming the starting job or even a bigger role on the team. After the 2007 season, I thought Gotay was on his way to getting his shot with the Mets because young 2b who can hit don't come along everyday. But the Mets thought otherwise, and eventually elected to hand $26 million bucks to Mr. Slap, Luis Castillo.
Fast forward to spring training 2008, the Mets, faced with a looming roster crunch, put Gotay on waivers and hoped that no one would claim him. Unfortunately for the Mets, the Braves swooped in and claimed Gotay. Gotay lasted the entire year on the Braves roster, but even though the Braves stunk, Gotay was never given a chance to show what he could do. He was relegated to only pinch hitting duties and only started 9 times for the 90 loss Braves. The reasons for Gotay's limited playing time were obvious: inability to field, inability to hit lefties, and the Braves already had a pretty good 2b in Kelly Johnson. In very limited action, Gotay wound up hitting .235 while only coming to the plate 102 times.
So it comes as no surprise that the Braves let go of Gotay. Make no mistake, he is a flawed player who has major limitations. So why take a shot on him? Because second base is a tough position to fill and finding a young second baseman, is nearly impossible. Who knows? Maybe Gotay will never amount to much defensively and maybe left handed pitching will continue to serve as his kryptonite, but his ability to hit right handed pitching well should force teams to give Gotay a look. AL teams should be especially interested because the DH rule adds value to what Gotay can bring to the table. Teams like the Orioles, Athletics, Tigers, and Indians should all take a long look into signing Gotay. At worst, Gotay can be a pinch hitter against right handed pitching and provide quality depth to a organization. At best, he could be a starting second baseman in this league. General Managers should clamor to sign a guy like Gotay: The risk is low while the reward is very high. It doesn't getter much better than that, huh?