MIAMI — The Rays checked out a few other hitters during the off-season, getting into talks with Nelson Cruz and DJ LeMahieu among other free agents, exploring some trade options big and small.
When none of those deals happened for various reasons, they ended up signing Avisail Garcia in mid-January for a relative bargain rate of $3.5 million with some incentives, a bit of a gamble as he was coming off right knee surgery following a down year with the White Sox that led to him being non-tendered.
And that has worked out pretty, pretty well.
Garcia’s mammoth 471-foot homer in Tuesday’s 4-0 win over the Marlins was his seventh of the season, and by the end of the night he was hitting a solid .296 with 17 RBIs and an .877 OPS. Also, he’s played impressive defense in right field and has run the bases well, evidenced by his hustle to beat out an infield hit with two outs in the ninth to knock in the final run.
“A healthy Avi Garcia can beat you in many ways,’’ Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "I think last year he was battling injuries, but now he’s 100 percent healthy. He hits the infield single to separate the game a little more. … He really gets down the line. He really covers a lot of balls in the gaps with his speed.''
Garcia, who came up with the Tigers and spent 5 1/2 seasons in the majors with the White Sox, said he is quite pleased with how things have gone to this point.
"One hundred percent,'' he said. "I’ve been feeling great. my knee is feeling great. I think the trainers, they’ve done a really good job. Everyone is together, everyone wants to help everybody. For us, for everyone, it’s important to do that.
"We have a whole team that has your back, tying to make this team good, to make this team as a family here. And I think that’s important.''
Contact Marc Topkin at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @TBTimes_Rays