Cliff Floyd (Associated Press)The Tampa Bay Rays are close to reaching a preliminary agreement with free-agent outfielder Cliff Floyd, pending a physical and other factors. The Rays, searching for a left-handed bat and someone to replace outfielder Delmon Young, who was recently traded to the Minnesota Twins, could sign Floyd by the start of the weekend, according to several sources close to the situation.
Following the Chicago Cubs' decision not to exercise the $5-million option on Floyd's contract in early November, the 15-year veteran surfaced on the free-agent market. And with the Rays vocally looking for a veteran left-handed hitter to diversify their lineup, Floyd, who batted .284 with nine home runs, 45 RBIs, and a .373 on-base percentage in 108 games with the Cubs in 2007, caught the eye of several Rays' executives.
Floyd, a .279 career hitter, has been nagged by injuries for much of his career, leading to questions about his ability to stay healthy consistently as he enters the latter stages of his tenure as a professional. In a reduced role, however, sharing at-bats against right-handed pitchers with similarly oft-injured outfielder Rocco Baldelli and Jonny Gomes in right field and at designated hitter, Floyd could help improve the Rays' offense in 2008.
In 322 plate appearances with Chicago, his hometown team, he contributed a 9.6 VORP (Value Over Replacement Player), meaning that he provided the Cubs with just under ten more runs than an average Triple-A player at his position, according to the team audit statistics at Baseball Prospectus.
In perhaps his best season in 2001, as a member of the Florida Marlins, he posted career-high totals in RBIs (103), and runs scored (123), while finishing the season with 31 home runs. Four seasons later with the New York Mets, he hit 34 home runs, the best total of his career, reestablishing himself as a premiere offensive player in the National League.
Even before agreeing to a preliminary contract with Japanese outfield import Kosuke Fukudome, one of the most sought-after free agent outfielders this off-season, to a four-year, $48-million contract, though, Floyd, at age 34, was clearly expendable in Chicago. Failing to exercise the expensive options on the contracts of Floyd and veteran starting pitcher Steve Traschel helped Chicago alleviate some of its unnecessary fiscal burdens, allowing them to pursue other avenues for upgrading their club.
Financial and length of contract details have yet to be released. Given Floyd's current market value and the high risk of him getting injured, however, any deal should only be for one season, possibly two, similar to the one-year, three-million dollar contract that
Luke Scott, another reported potential replacement for Young in right field whose name has been in numerous Rays' trade rumors over the past few weeks, was dealt to the Baltimore Orioles in the Blockbuster trade that sent Miguel Tejada to the Houston Astros today, squashing, of course, any chance that he will suit up in a Tampa Bay uniform next season (barring an unforeseeable trade in the future).
Other News, Notes: Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com was skeptical about the Astros' role in the Tejada deal, voicing his opinion here. In the past, the Rays, who acquired prospects Mitch Talbot and Ben Zobrist in the trade that sent Aubrey Huff to
Speaking of Fukudome, the Baseball Prospectus guys are raving about him, too. Check out his projected 2008 PECOTA card and the lofty on-base percentage he is predicted to have in his first MLB season.
And on a ligther note: Love him or hate him, Joe Maddon is generally an admirable guy, proven here in today's Bill Chastain piece.