Rays sign Casey Kotchman to minor-league deal
UPDATE, 4:50: Kotchman said he is excited by the chance: "It's an unusual circumstance where there's a team in your backyard in any major sport and to be able to have a chance to play for them, I'm grateful for the opportunity. And they won the division. ... It was fun going to games there when I was in high school, so just the chance to play for them is worth going for.''
DEVELOPING: The Rays are signing 1B Casey Kotchman to a minor-league deal with an invitation to spring training.
Kotchman, 28 next month, was a first-round pick out of Seminole High in 2001 (13th overall by the Angels), but has had mixed results in what was expected to be a stellar big-league career, failing to develop the offense to go with this solid defense.
He led first baseman in fielding percentage in each of the last three seasons, and set two first baseman records last season: consecutive errorless games (274) and total chances (2,379) without an error, with both snapped Aug. 21 at New York. Kotchman's .998 fielding percentage (nine errors in 4,875 total chances) is the highest in major league history among players with at least 500 games played.
Kotchman hit .296 with 11 homers and 68 RBIs in 137 games for the Angels in 2007, and was on a similar track then next season when he was traded in July to Atlanta in the Mark Teixeira deal, and ended up at .272 with 14 homers and 74 RBIs.
Kotchman has struggled since then, traded again from Atlanta to Boston in July 2009, and hitting .268 with seven homers and 48 RBIs for the season. His time in Boston was particularly rough, as he was used on a part-time basis and hit only .218 with one homer and seven RBIs in 39 games (95 plate appearances).
He was traded for the third time in 18 months last January, from Boston to Seattle, and continued to struggle with the Mariners, hitting .217 with nine homers and 51 RBIs, with just a .280 on-base percentage and .616 OPS. The Mariner, after paying him $3.5-million last season, let him go in November (in what was essentially an early non-tender) by outrighting him to Triple-A and he refused the assignment.
His career numbers: .259 with 49 homers and 284 RBIs and a .717 OPS.