...Based entirely on my own and Halosheaven contributor WUMBUG's speculation. Here's why:
- Tampa's current back-up catcher, 38-year-old Gregg Zaun, comes with the steep annual price tag of $2 million. He's had a good season, hitting .258/.352/.404 and catching 24% of basestealers. His defense looks solid but not outstanding. Do the budget-conscious Rays really want Zaun's age-39 season enough to exercise his $2 million, 2010 option? I think they're looking for alternatives. By writing off Zaun's $.5 mil buyout and picking up Bobby Wilson, they save a cool $1 mil plus change.
- Tampa's primary catcher, Dioner Navarro, is still under control for a couple more seasons, but he took a big step backwards after an allstar '08. He's hitting a paltry .220/.255/.333 in '09 and his defense has slipped too - he's stopped only 25% of basestealers this season after nabbing 38% in '08. The Rays have good reason to procure a talented back-up, both to light a fire under his ass and/or to absorb some playing time.
- Tampa's in-house heir to the backup job, almost-26-year-old John Jaso, has disappointed this year. After hitting a combined .273/.391/.426 across AA and AAA last season, earning Baseball America's recognition as the Rays' 13th best prospect, Jaso is hitting just .256/.352/.353 this year in AAA. Moreover, his defense has always been suspect, and this year he's allowed 11 passed balls, committed 8 errors, and thrown out only 16% of basestealers. That's not what you want to see from a back-up catcher.
- Bobby Wilson continues to impress behind the plate. AAA managers voted him best defensive catcher in the PCL, where he's caught 38% of basestealers in '09 ( (he caught 42% last year), allowed only 2 passed balls, and committed just 6 errors. He's had a down year with the bat, hitting only .271/.314/.399 in AAA, but he put up a much better .821 OPS last season. While his walk rate is down a little, his contact rate is about the same as last year and he's even hitting more line drives in spite of the lower BABIP. He's a great defender with some upside in his bat - think Bengie Molina as a best-case comp.
- Jeff Mathis and Mike Napoli block Bobby at the MLB level and 21-year-old Hank Conger is on the verge of overtaking him. Despite the lack of opportunity, Bobby is popular in the Angels organization - Eddie Bane calls him major league ready - so I think they'd be happy to send him to a place where he's got a legitimate shot at playing time. That would also explain Maddon's enthusiasm for the PTBNL, as he's familiar with Bobby's work.
- Bobby is too good to pass through waivers, so the Halos and Rays have to wait until the offseason to move him. Jjackflash points out that the Angels retain Wilson as a back-up for the remainder of this season, which works for both teams.
From Tampa's perspective, Bobby is the perfect "throw in" to the package, while the Halos lose little in seeing him off and gain a roster spot this offseason. What do you think?