Rays, Kapler Agrees to $1M, 1-Year Deal
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -- The AL champion Tampa Bay Rays made another move Monday to bolster their depth and right-handed hitting, agreeing to a $1 million, one-year contract with outfielder Gabe Kapler.
The 33-year-old came out of retirement last season with bat .301 with eight homers, 17 doubles, 38 RBIs and a career-best .498 slugging percentage in 96 games with the Milwaukee Brewers.
After playing parts of four seasons in Boston, Kapler spent 2007 managing Red Sox Class A affiliate Greenville. He called the year away from the majors a learning experience that was "really important to my development as a human being more so than as a baseball player."
"I think it just provided me with an opportunity to take a breather and realize that I had a lot of passion for playing left in me," Kapler said during a conference call. "That said, I also learned a lot of lessons about how to be strong mentally, and those lessons carried over into 2008 ... and I expect to be able to build on them in 2009."
The deal with Kapler, a .273 career hitter with 72 homers and 340 RBIs, comes a week after the AL champions agreed to a $16 million, two-year contract with former Philadelphia slugger Pat Burrell.
Kapler's versatility as an outfielder was a factor, as well as his 26 and homers and .294 career average against left-handed pitching. He hit .354 with four home runs and 22 RBI's against lefties in 2008.
So was the amount the Rays could afford to pay Kapler after giving Burrell a deal that vice president of Andrew Friedman said would limit Tampa Bay's spending for the rest of this offseason.
"That was the extent of our flexibility," Friedman said.
Kapler started 43 games for the Brewers -- in center field, 12 in left and six in right. With B.J. Upton recovering from shoulder surgery performed after the World Series, his addition provides some flexibility for manager Joe Maddon.
"He further upgrades us against left-handed pitching. He can play all three outfield spots, and it's further insurance in the event that B.J. is not ready opening day," Friedman said.
"We're still optimistic. But you never know. It's important for us to get off to a good start, and we feel like in the event B.J. isn't ready that we're in much better position with Gabe."
Kapler, drafted by Detroit in 1995, has played parts of 10 seasons with the Tigers, Red Sox, Brewers and Texas Rangers. He hit his first major league homer at Tropicana Field on April 30, 1999.
"I like the opportunity to win, and I think this team has the ability to be better than it was last year," Kapler said. "My No. 1 goal at this point is to ... meet my teammates, earn their respect and then prove to Joe and Andrew what I'm capable of doing. I expect everything else to take care of itself from that point on."
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)