Last night was the deadline for the Tampa Bay Rays to tender contracts to their arbitration eligible players. There were very few surprises, as the Rays tendered contracts to seven of the eight eligible players, including Burke Badenhop, who was traded earlier today.
David Price was naturally tendered a contract, as he has begun to establish himself as a true ace. Sam Fuld, and Matt Joyce were also unsurprisingly tendered contracts, as both filled vital roles within the Rays last season. As Fuld and Joyce are expected to earn just over $3Million combined, potentially being able to fill out key roles with relatively inexpensive contracts can only help as the Rays Look to fill out their roster. The reasonable contracts may also allow the Rays to absorb Price’s expected $9.5Million salary a bit easier.
Jeff Niemann, who has battled injuries over his four years, was also tendered a contract. Expected to earn approximately $3.1Million, Niemann has pitched reasonably well when healthy, accumulating a record of 40-26 with a 4.06 ERA and 409 strikeouts over his career. Despite finishing 2012 at 2-3, Niemann also appeared to be en route towards his best season in the majors at the time of his injury, as he had a career low ERA of 3.08, while striking out 8.1 batters per nine innings. Should he remain healthy and continue to perform at that level for 2013, Niemann could well end up as a bargain.
Ryan Roberts is another potential bounceback candidate, who may turn out to be a bargain as well. Expected to earn $3Million for 2013, Roberts is tentatively penciled in as the starting second baseman for the Rays on Opening Day. At worst, he may the Rays utility infielder, backing up second and third base while potentially getting at bats as the designated hitter. After a solid 2011 where he produced a .249/.341/.427 batting line with 19 home runs and 18 stolen bases, Roberts slumped to a combined line of .235/.296/.360 with 12 home runs and 10 steals. Roberts also displayed excellent defense at second, providing an immediate upgrade with the glove over Elliot Johnson and Sean Rodriguez. Should Roberts split the difference between his 2011 and 2012 seasons, while playing the excellent defense that he displayed upon his arrival, he could well be another bargain for the club.
Surprisingly, Sean Rodriguez was tendered a contract. After being demoted to Durham, Rodriguez proceeded to punch a locker in frustration, breaking a bone in his hand, and had seemingly punched his ticket out of town. However, even though Rodriguez appears to have lost any chance at being a starter with his complete inability to hit anything other than the aforementioned locker last season, he does have a bit of pop in his bat, and may compete with the newly signed Mike Fontenot for the primary utility infielder position. For an expected salary of just about a million dollars, Rodriguez won’t cost much, and could provide solid value.
That leaves Ben Francisco, who was the only player not offered a contract. Francisco did what the Rays needed him to do last year, provide outfield depth at a time when they were depleted with injuries. Yet, as a player that has been roughly league average over his career, he is the type of player that the Rays could likely find several of on the open market, possibly for less than his expected $1.7Million price tag.Francisco will likely land someplace as a fourth outfielder, it just may not be in Tampa.
All in all, there were really few surprises, aside from Sean Rodriguez. With these players remaining under team control, the framework for the 2013 roster has begun to take shape. Now, we wait to see what else the Rays do this offseason, either in the trade market or via free agency.