Amidst a rough slide which has seen the team drop eight of their last eleven games, the Rays agreed upon a deal to acquire second-baseman Eric Sogard from the Toronto Blue Jays Sunday afternoon. It is currently being reported by Scott Mitchell of TSN Sports that the Jays will receive two players to be named later in exchange for their middle infielder. While he has spent time at every position other than center field, first base, and catcher this season, he will primarily find playing time with the Rays at second and third base, with Brandon Lowe, Yandy Diaz, and Daniel Robertson all currently on the injured list.
Sogard is in the middle of the best season of his nine-year career, as he is currently slashing .300/.363/.477, which equates to a 123 wRC+. This offensive production comes as a result of a career high .326 BABIP, and among position players with at least 300 plate appearances, the 57 point decrease between his wOBA and xwOBA—.358 to .301— is the third-highest. This is all to say the Rays are not deluded into thinking Sogard will continue to hit at this level for the remainder of the season. Nevertheless, his versatility on defense stands to provide value for Tampa Bay, while they wait for the return of some of their more offensively capable middle infielders.
As Dan Szymborski notes in his piece on the deal, Sogard’s contact rate on pitches in the strike zone among active, qualified hitters with a minimum of 500 plate appearances ranks second in the game at 95.8 percent. A rate like this is almost necessary for someone with a hard-hit rate of roughly 20 percent—a mark which falls in the bottom 1 percent of all of baseball. While he walks at a slightly above league average rate, his high contact rate has led to a low 14.6 K%, making Sogard a relic of an earlier baseball era, when players were encouraged to go the other way, swing down on the ball, and avoid strikeouts at all costs.
Perhaps of note, Sogard has totaled six steals for the Blue Jays this season, a mark which is half of his career single-season high of eleven. As he moves from a team with little propensity to steal bases to the Rays who rank eighth in baseball in steals, this could be another area where Sogard could provide value over the remainder of the season. While the acquisition of Sogard will not be the deal that decides the fate of Rays’ season, attaining the services of a middle infielder who projects to post a .330 on-base percentage for the remainder of the season at little cost is the type of the depth move that will never receive much criticism.
Featured Image: Keith Allison, Flickr.