Big Decisions on Tampa Bay Rays Arbitration Eligible Players

BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 23: Tampa Bay Rays starter Jake Odorizzi (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 23: Tampa Bay Rays starter Jake Odorizzi (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images) /

Another disappointing season leads to the off-season of many questions and decisions for the Tampa Bay Rays, most notably will be their decisions regarding their arbitration eligible players.

As another disappointing Tampa Bay Rays season comes to a close, management is starting to take a look at what caused this train wreck and how to prevent it from happening again next season. The usual culprit is injures. Inconsistency of starting pitching, a flawed bullpen for the first half of the season and failure to score runs in key situations only add to the list of problems.

I would offer one more critical issue to be solved. The Tampa Bay Rays must put together a team and not just a collection of players that will change at the end of each season. Every off-season the Rays comb the scrap heap of free agents hoping to score a cheap signing that will plug a hole in their lineup.

Sometimes they find the 2017 version of Logan Morrison but most times they find the 2016 version of Morrison. It’s a roll of the dice that rarely results in a team that teammates and fans can call their own.

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The 2017 Tampa Bay Rays were no different. The team that will take the field on the last day of the season may be completely different from the team that will open the 2018 season. The Rays have thirteen players that are eligible for arbitration and eight more who are free agents.

At least seven of the eight free agents will be gone and the question remains how many arbitration eligible players will not be tendered contracts or will be traded.

At the top of the arbitration list is Jake Odorizzi. He is going into his second year of arbitration and made $4.1 million last season. Even though his 2017 season was not his best, he will be due a substantial raise and would bring significant value in a trade. However, losing Odorizzi would leave the team with only one veteran starter and place the quality of the rotation in doubt.

Next up is the bullpen trio of Alex Colome, Brad Boxberger and Xavier Cedeno. Colome is in his first year of arbitration but has had a breakout season and will probably lead the majors in saves. This could give him a $3.0 million or more contract next year.

Boxberger and Cedeno are in the second year of arbitration but were injured and had down years. No matter, each will receive a contract of over $2.0 million for 2018. Money aside, these three could be the core of a 2018 bullpen.

Three pitchers of lesser importance, Dan Jennings, Chase Whitley and Shawn Tolleson, are also eligible. Jennings, who came over in a mid-season trade, is in his second year of arbitration and made $1.4 million this year. He was up and down with the Rays but has a good history and could be a valuable part of the 2018 bullpen. Tolleson is coming off Tommy John surgery and Whitley is spot starter and long reliever. Neither figures prominently in the Rays 2018 plans.

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The position side of arbitration eligible features six players. The most prominent are Adeiny Hechavarria, Steven Souza Jr. and Corey Dickerson. All three were key to the Rays in 2017 and made a combined $8.0 million this season.

Hechavarria is in his third year of arbitration, Dickerson in his second and Souza in his first. That means the trio will make a combined $15.0 or more in 2018. However, if you want to build a team, these three must be retained.

The other three position players include Brad Miller, Matt Duffy and Jesus Sucre. Duffy and Sucre are due for modest raises in 2018 and I would have them return. Sucre a solid backup catcher and while Duffy missed all of 2017 with injuries, he is a solid player and could be the team’s regular second baseman in 2018. Miller had a terrible year on offense and in the field. He’ll make over $5.0 million in 2018 and whether by trade or non-tender, he should be gone.

In the end, ten of these thirteen players offer future value to the Rays and should be retained. They cost the team over $30 million but they are well worth it and go along ways towards building a team for the future. Further, they offer a lot more assurance that they will perform well than trying to take a chance on a low rent free agent.

Next: Tampa Bay Rays Season a Success No Matter the End Result

Add in players such as Evan Longoria, Kevin Kiermaier, Chris Archer, Wilson Ramos and a half dozen Triple A prospects and the Rays could be a special team in 2018.