MLB hot stove: The Rays are reportedly looking at a free agent slugger as a two-way player
Matt Davidson slugged 20 home runs and threw three scoreless innings in 2018
In an effort to maximize their 25 roster spots, the Tampa Bay Rays are reportedly looking at free agent slugger Matt Davidson as a potential two-way player. Davidson would presumably serve as a corner infielder -- he's played first base in addition to third base, his natural position -- and designated hitter, and also pitch in relief on occasion.
Last season Davidson, 27, put up a .228/.319/.419 batting line with 20 home runs in 496 plate appearances for the White Sox. He smacked 46 home runs the last two years combined for Chicago. The ChiSox non-tendered Davidson after last season rather than pay him a projected $2.4 million in 2019.
In addition to his power production, Davidson also took the mound three times in blowout games, striking out two in three scoreless innings. Statcast says his fastball topped out at 92.3 mph, and his curveball looked pretty good too.
Late last year Davidson told Bruce Levine of 670 The Score that he's open to being a two-way player going forward, which is important. Buy-in is necessary for something like this succeed. Here's what Davidson told Levine:
"This is something that will take a lot more work in for me," Davidson said in late September. "I think it is something that can be done. It is something I am passionate about, so I enjoy doing it. I told them this is something I wouldn't mind doing."
Like many players, Davidson did pitch in high school, so it's not like last season was his first time ever on a mound. He was never considered much of a pro prospect as a pitcher though, mostly because he offered so much power potential at the plate.
The Rays already have two two-way players in their farm system. Brendan McKay, the fourth overall pick in 2017, had a 2.41 ERA and 103 strikeouts in 78 1/3 Single-A innings last season, and also hit .214/.368/.359 with six home runs in 242 plate appearances. Tanner Dodson, Tampa Bay's second-round pick in 2018, will play the outfield and pitch in relief going forward.
Shohei Ohtani exceeded expectations last season and showed being a two-way player is possible. He thrived on both sides of the ball. Davidson may not be able to start, but he could pitch in relief, and we all know the Rays like to get creative with their bullpen. If the two sides do agree to a deal, Davidson figures to see much more time on the mound going forward.
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