Rays Give Aybar Another Chance

The Deal
Willy Aybar never has lived up to the then-Dominican-record $1.4 million bonus the Dodgers gave him in 2000, and he missed all of last season with the Braves while battling alcohol and drug problems. But he has shown flashes of talent, and the Rays will give him another chance to deliver on his potential. Tampa Bay acquired Aybar and Class A infielder Chase Fontaine from Atlanta on Thursday, giving up only lefthander Jeff Ridgway in exchange.
The Big Leaguers
Aybar, 24, is the older brother of Angels shortstop Erick Aybar. Willy last played in 2006, when he hit .314 with 10 homers in 53 Triple-A games and .280 with four homers in 79 big league games, going from the Dodgers to the Braves in a July 28 trade for Wilson Betemit. He’s a switch-hitter with gap power from both sides of the plate and a patient approach. Defensively, he offers a strong arm and soft hands. Aybar has played mostly third and second base, but he may lack the pop for the former position and doesn’t have the range for the latter. Tampa Bay plans on using him as a utilityman and also giving him time at first base and on the outfield corners.
The Prospects
Ridgway, 27, signed out of a Washington high school as a 14th-round pick in 1999. He has better stuff than most lefthanders, pitching in the low 90s with his fastball and backing it up with a hard breaking ball. He spent almost all of 2007 at Triple-A Durham, going 2-3, 3.06 with four saves in 54 games. He had a 67-30 K-BB ratio in 64 innings, while opponents hit .228 with eight homers against him. He made his major legue debut in September and got crushed in three appearances. He recorded just one out, allowed nine baserunners and posted a 189.00 ERA.

Fontaine, 22, was a second-round pick out of Daytona Beach (Fla.) CC in 2006. He has a line-drive, lefty bat, slightly above-average speed and a strong arm. He spent his first full pro season at low Class A Rome and high Class A Myrtle Beach, hitting .271/.380/.371 with three homers, 33 RBIs and 11 steals (in 20 tries) in 117 games. He played second base, third base, shortstop and the outfield last year, and he projects as a utilityman.

Quick Take
The Rays are taking a gamble on Aybar, but it comes with little risk. Ridgway may make the Braves’ bullpen—where he’ll battle Will Ohman and Royce Ring for lefty-specialist innings—but doesn’t have a high ceiling.

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