While Tampa Bay Rays' fans can rejoice in knowing Andrew Friedman is still the mastermind behind the two percent of genius on One Tropicana Drive, it still would have been intriguing to see what he could have done with a substantially larger salary cap in Chicago, Houston or Los Angeles.
Nevertheless, the 35-year-old former Tulane baseball outfielder is still the Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations and the Rays are still in good hands (sorry All State Insurance guy with the deep voice).
Case in point: on Thursday, Friedman announced on a conference call with the media that the team will still be "very active in looking for a bat," even after the Rays officially announced the signing of former Orioles outfielder Luke Scott and a little over a month after the organization brought in catcher Jose Molina.
Friedman said Scott, despite the surgery last July to fix the torn labrum in his right shoulder, "is physically able to (be the designated hitter) and play first and he will be able to play in the outfield when he's physically able to."
"There also is the possibility that he could play first on Opening Day as well," Friedman said.
Scott tried to play through the torn labrum at the beginning of the season last year, but after hitting .220 with nine homers and 22 RBIs in 64 games, he decided to have season- ending surgery in July.
After the Rays consulted with Dr. James Andrews, who performed the surgery, and team doctors and trainers, who put Scott through a physical which the 33-year-old passed, Friedman felt confident in inking the native Floridian and former Deland High School star.
"Luke has established himself as one of the better power hitters in baseball, with consistent success in a variety of roles against both right- and left-handed pitchers," said Executive Vice President, Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman. "He's shown he can perform in the American League East and we expect him to be healthy and productive again in 2012."
Over his three previous seasons (2008-10), Scott batted .269 with a combined 84 doubles and 75 home runs. Only three American Leaguers—and no other left-handed hitters—matched those numbers over that span: Evan Longoria, Miguel Cabrera and Mark Teixeira. His best season came in his most recent full season, 2010, when he was named the Orioles' Most Valuable Player after he batted .284 and had a .535 slugging percentage with 29 doubles, 72 RBI and a team-high 27 home runs, fifth most among AL lefties.
Scott fits in with manager Joe Maddon's approach in that he can play multiple positions. Over the past three seasons with the Orioles, he has played in 41 games and started in 37 of them at first, where he had a .987 fielding percentage and had just four errors in 315 chances.
Friedman said the team will still look for another offensive bat to add to the lineup, "either on the right-handed side or the left."
"We don't like to pigeon-hole ourselves into an exact applicant pool," Friedman said. "We want to line up the best player we can in terms of the best offensive fit within the offensive unit and the best defensive fit for the defensive unit."
Friedman noted that, despite all the discussion about the Rays' financial limitations, he is not hamstrung on his decision-making.
"We don't have that hard and fast rule in terms of numbers and we won't approach what we do based on that," Friedman said. "Numerous years are intertwined so we are open to pursuing things based on a lot of good options on both fronts (in terms of player ability and contract structure)."
While Scott has the ability to play first base and in spite of several players taking ground balls at the position on Wednesday during workouts in Tropicana Field (including Matt Joyce and Reid Brignac), Friedman said the possibility to still add a full-time first- baseman is there.
"We want to be as flexible as we can and try and end up with the best roster we can configure," Friedman said.
The Rays have been rumored to be interested in Casey Kotchman and Carlos Pena at first.
Based in St. Petersburg, Fla., Chris Girandola has been a sports journalist for over eight years and is currently the Rays Senior Writer for RaysDigest.com. His other writing credits include the Associated Press, St. Petersburg Times, Naples News, Florida Football Magazine, KentuckyBasketball Magazine, and Tampa Bay Business Journal. You can follow him on Twitter at @cgrand
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