According to Marc Topkins of the Tampa Bay Times (click here for the post):
“Nothing official yet from the Rays but the Times has learned Evan Longoria’s issue is related to his hamstring, at the back of his left knee, and the guesstimate is that he’ll be out 6-8 weeks.
The Rays are still sorting through options to replace Longoria and may not have a roster move today.”
We all know that the Rays have a very fluid lineup to begin with, and you have to wonder how things will go from here. Will Sean Rodriguez shift to 3B with the Rays calling Tim Beckham up from Triple-A? If Beckham was hitting then I could see that as a possibility, but with him hitting .204 with 0 HR and 1 SB over 54 AB and on the DL, that’s not going to happen.
Could Hak-Ju Lee coming up from Double-A? He too isn’t tearing the cover off the ball and the Rays are notorious for exhibiting patience with their prospects. I wouldn’t be scurrying for Lee either.
Reid Brignac is already on the 40-man roster and has seen time in the Majors this season, but he’s hardly an impact bat if he is the one who gains extra playing time.
Elliot Johnson playing shortstop? I know we are all excited now!
Here’s a possible scenario that could seem crazy, but may give the Rays the best lineup possible under the circumstances:
First Base = Carlos Pena
Second Base = Jeff Keppinger
Third Base = Sean Rodriguez
Shortstop = Ben Zobrist
Outfield = Desmond Jennings, B.J. Upton, Matt Joyce
Designated Hitter = Luke Scott
The main question would be if Zobrist could handle shortstop on a regular basis. While he’s primarily played 2B and OF since coming to the Majors, he actually played shortstop throughout the minor leagues. Is it his best position? He had 11 errors in 52 games at Triple-A in 2007, so the answer is probably not, but you should be able to get by.
The Rays need to find a way to replace the production that Longoria provided in the middle of the lineup. While it’s nearly impossible to do that, this setup would allow them to have the most explosive team possible. I wouldn’t expect to see it regularly (look for Elliot Johnson to get some time at shortstop and the outfield to rotate a bit), but I would guarantee that you are going to see it at least a few times.
That means, in all likelihood, Ben Zobrist is going to gain eligibility at shortstop in short order. How does that impact his value? Just consider he brings .275/20/20 potential. In 2011 there was no shortstop who accomplished that feat (Jimmy Rollins had 16 HR and 30 SB).
In other words, Zobrist owners need to be salivating if this scenario does come to pass (and others may want to try and acquire him now before anyone else realizes). I wouldn’t consider it a given, but it does appear to be one of the better options that they currently have available (though, would it surprise anyone if Luke Hughes or a similarly waived player was a Ray by the end of the week).
If you are an owner trying to replace Longoria, however, you are going to have to be looking elsewhere.