Tonight at midnight is the deadline for teams to tender contracts to players. Two Rays are on the brink of being on the team, with JP Howell and Andy Sonnanstine both with the potential to be let go. The Rays also have four others that are eligible, Jeff Niemann, David Price, Joel Peralta, and BJ Upton, but all four of them will be tendered contracts.
In my opinion, both could easily be let go. The Rays have better options to fill both spots and Howell just did not look the same last season after his injuries. Howell was non-tendered and re-signed last season, but I would not expect the Rays to re-sign him this season if they let him go. Sonnanstine, on the other hand, could be re-signed on a minor league deal to fill roster spots in case of injury. He is not the best, but at least he is consistent.
Howell had a horrible season last year, making 46 appearances with a 6.16 ERA after returning from Tommy John surgery that kept him out of the 2010 season. He did not look like the same guy that he was in 2009. Joe Maddon showed that he can be loyal to a fault, continuing to go to his former go-to reliever in high pressure situations well into the Rays playoff push. Howell fell out of favor with Rays fans after a couple ill-timed homers that cost the Rays some ballgames.
Andy Sonnanstine had a rough year last year, spending most of the season in Durham. He made only 15 appearances for the Rays, four of which were starts, and often went a week or two between appearances when he was with the big club. He posted a 5.55 ERA in those 15 games. Sonnanstine has been consistent in his time with the Rays, getting hit a lot. Sometimes were better than others, but it mostly depends on where the ball is hit, because you know the ball is going to be in play with Sonny. The question is whether it will be hit to a fielder.
We will see tonight once and for all whether Howell or Sonnanstine will get the chance to make the 2012 Rays.
In other bullpen news, the Rays made a small trade today. They acquired righty Burke Badenhop from the Marlins for minor league catcher Jake Jeffries. Badenhop posted a 4.10 ERA in 50 games last season, collecting a 7.2 K/9 rate. Badenhop will most likely be a middle to long reliever for the Rays next season, but he certainly helps to bolster the bullpen and help fill the void left by Juan Cruz.