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Rays Daniel Robertson on Opening Day Roster Poses Question

Survey Says…

Opening day is less than 24 hours away and the deadline for 25-man rosters is noon on Sunday, April 2. Questions surrounding the bullpen and outfield depth were still unanswered as late as Saturday. The club announce early Saturday morning that second baseman Nick Franklin had been designated for assignment. This move paves the way for SS Daniel Robertson to make his major-league debut.

Robertson set for MLB debut!


The Tampa Bay Rays have made several significant trades and free-agent signings since the end of the 2016 season. Their most recent move may pose more questions than any before it. Service time, performance, free-agency, injury concerns, trade possibilities…the addition of Robertson provides great intrigue to the 2017 campaign.

Question 1: Should Nick Franklin have been given a shot after 2016 success?

In 2016, Franklin had a breakout second-half. His performance down-the-stretch gave thought that maybe he should be starting at second base and the club should keep Brad Miller at first. Once the Rays re-signed first baseman Logan Morrison that became less likely. However, the case could be made that Franklin’s numbers, over a full season, could have been similar to those of the departed Logan Forsythe. Miller also provides greater up-side than Morrison.

Question 2: Are the Rays down-playing the Matt Duffy injury?

Manager Kevin Cash has stated the Tim Beckham will be the starter at shortstop on Sunday.

Per Marc Topkin, he also commented on the Robertson decision…

It seems that if this move was strictly about “depth”, the team might rely on a more established veteran like Franklin.

Also, it was believed that Matt Duffy would be ready to go in mid-March. After having a set-back to his surgically repaired left heel, that did not happen. Cash has stated that there is no time-table for Duffy’s return but May seems to be possible. It’s possible that Robertson is more than just depth and the team has greater concern for the health of Duffy. You don’t often see top-prospects break camp with the big-league club just to sit the bench.

Question 3: Does this open the door for Evan Longoria to be traded?

It’s no secret that Evan Longoria has been mentioned in trade rumors almost every season. A career-year in 2016 suggested that his production value was at the highest it would be. Additionally, his team-friendly contract over the next few years would allow potential suitors multiple years of service. Longo is set to make less than $15MM in each of the next four seasons. His $13MM salary in 2017 is comparable to that of the Yankees’ Chase Headley and Dodgers’ Justin Turner. Both players are older than Longo and have had significantly less success throughout their career.

Giving Daniel Robertson a spot on the opening day roster would suggest that the Rays are looking for immediate contributions, not just depth off the bench. Otherwise it’s a waste of millions of dollars – I’ll get to that in a minute.

Matt Duffy is a true third baseman. He has 253 games under his belt and only 28 of those were at shortstop. And 18 of those were for the Rays last season when he clearly wasn’t going to man the hot-corner. Longoria would certainly command a large haul of prospects and those prospects could help this team get back to the post-season.

The team could employ DJ Casper, I’m sure he would have no problem telling Duffy to ‘slide to the right’. Who knows, it may even get everybody to clap their hands. Duffy playing his natural position gives Robertson the chance to be the everyday shortstop.

Question 4: Why not wait until mid April to call up Robertson?

If Robertson were to get called up anytime after mid-April the team would guarantee themselves an extra year of team control. Per MLB policy, the club has control of Robertson for six ‘full’ seasons. One full season is equivalent to 173 days of service on a big-league roster.

There are typically around 183 days in an MLB season. This means that if the Rays waited until there were fewer than 173 days remaining in the 2017 season they would get an extra year of Robertson’s services. All they need to do is wait a couple of weeks and then make the call, thus putting Robertson on the free-agent market in 2023.

With Super-2 status and Arbitration hearings this could end up being a move that costs the Rays millions of dollars. That’s a lot of money for a small-market team. However, this might indicate that they have no intention of keeping Robertson through six seasons. After all, Wily Adames should be ready to help this team within the next two seasons.

So much can change over the course of one, let alone several, MLB seasons. The Rays’ decision to keep Daniel Robertson on the opening day roster is a topic that might be discussed for years to come.


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