The wheels are in motion once again for the Tampa Bay Rays as multiple sources have reported the signing of ex-Baltimore Orioles free agent Steve Pearce to a one-year deal pending a physical.
Although there has been no official announcement from the Tampa Bay Rays, the first to report the pending deal came on Thursday (Jan. 21) by Rays beat reporter Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times via Twitter. Topkin wrote that Pearce would be used in the same capacity as he did with Orioles (DH/OF/1B). As per team standards, official word of the signing will come once the physical is complete which should be in the coming days.
A graduate of Lakeland High School, Pearce was selected twice in the MLB Draft, but did not sign; taken in the 45th round in the 2003 Major League Baseball Draft by Minnesota and in the 10th round in the 2004 Major League Baseball Draft by Boston.
In 2008, the Pittsburgh Pirates drafted Pearce in the eighth round of the 2005 Major League Baseball Draft and he would make his MLB debut in September of 2007, appearing in 23 games for Pittsburgh. He would remain with Pittsburgh through the 2011 season before bouncing around in 2012 playing for the Twins, Yankees, Astros and finally the Orioles, where he found a home.
Pearce had a breakout season in 2014 in which he hit .293 with 21 homers and 49 RBIs and no doubt the Rays are hoping that he can duplicate that. However, Pearce was unable to duplicate 2014 into the 2015 campaign, as he finished the season hitting just .218 with 15 homers and 40 RBIs. Over parts of four seasons with the Orioles, Pearce had a .258 batting average with 43 home runs, 116 RBI, 50 doubles, 115 runs scored and had a very respectable .816 OPS in 266 career games.
A key in adding Perce is his versatility, which the Rays fully take advantage of in such players. Pearce can play both corner outfield positions, as well first base, third base and last season added second base to his repertoire. Another factor is Pearce has enjoyed hitting in Tropicana Field batting .288 with seven home runs, 14 RBI, five doubles, a .644 slugging percentage and owning a ridiculous 1.039 OPS in 23 games.
The pending deal could very well be the end to James Loney’s stay with the Rays as Pearce now becomes the second first baseman the team has acquired this off-season, joining Logan Morrison. It is no secret that Rays have been shopping Loney, who is scheduled to make $9.7 million in the final year of his three-year contract but so far no takers.
The Pearce addition gives manager Kevin Cash plenty of extra depth at the major league level and another righty/lefty platoon option at first base with Loney (if he remains) or with Morrison, at the DH spot with Morrison, Brandon Guyer, Hank Conger and others and as well in the corner outfield spots with Guyer as protection for Desmond Jennings and Steven Souza Jr., both whom sustained significant injuries in 2015.
The downfall though could mean that outfielder Mikie Mahtook and infielder Richie Shaffer are likely to begin the season at Triple-A Durham unless a deal or numerous deals are made.