The sample size is a little bigger now, but Dan Johnson is still struggling. Comparing Johnson to Pat Burrell and Hank Blalock (who received 96 and 69 plate appearances last season –although Burrell had an additional 476 in 2010) is easy; however, the situations are asymmetrical. The Rays had Blalock to replace Burrell and Matt Joyce (as well as Johnson) to replace Blalock.
The best in-house option right now would be Russ Canzler, which gives you an idea of the system’s lack of big league-ready first base prospects. Another option is to have Sean Rodriguez take over at second base and allow Ben Zobrist to play first base (or feature a Felipe Lopez-Rodriguez platoon at second once Evan Longoria returns). The Rays could also use Damon at first base and Desmond Jennings in left field, but that continues to leave a gap, this time at designated hitter. (And no, Casey Kotchman’s exclusion isn’t an oversight.)
The best free agent option is Troy Glaus and the trade market is always difficult to sum up from the outside. One has to figure Mark Trumbo, Yonder Alonso, Jonathan Singleton, and perhaps Chris Carter could become available, but not cheaply. Maybe Jerry Sands. Chris Davis was likely out there, but Josh Hamilton’s injury may have changed that. Kyle Blanks is still recovering from surgery, Nick Weglarz seems unlikely to go before Matt LaPorta –and LaPorta seems unlikely to go right now–, and other options like Mat Gamel, Travis Ishikawa, and Tyler Colvin are unattractive, to be kind.
I’m probably missing someone there, but perhaps the best trade opportunity is with Arizona, who has Juan Miranda, Russell Branyan, and Brandon Allen. Miranda is getting the lion’s share of playing time with Branyan doing his best Lenny Harris impression. Allen, meanwhile, is someone the Rays have had rumored interest in. Who knows the asking price, but either Branyan or Allen make sense for the club –with Branyan likely becoming the permanent DH to prevent an injury. Nick Johnson of the Indians has yet to swing a bat, but he would make sense too, should he choose to opt-out by July (as is his right).
From the looks of it, there’s just not a lot out there, so I can’t blame the Rays should they ride it out with Johnson until something pops up.