Rays extend Jeffrey Springs, Pete Fairbanks, and Yandy Díaz

The Tampa Bay Rays extended two players — Jeffrey Springs and Pete Fairbanks — this past week, while they are working toward extending the contract of Yandy Díaz as well.

Jeffrey Springs

Springs will be guaranteed $31 million over the course of his four-year deal which also includes incentives and a $15 million club option for 2027 with a $750 thousand buyout. Should Springs hit all the incentives, including Cy Young Award escalators, and the club picks up his option, he’ll earn $65.75 million over five seasons.

He will earn $4 million this season, $5.25 million next season, followed by $10.5 million in each of the following two seasons. The left-hander was slated to reach free agency after the 2024 campaign, so this could allow Tampa Bay to secure him for three additional seasons should they trigger his option.

Springs put up a 3.43 ERA and 3.91 FIP across 43 appearances in 2021 while striking out 35.2% of the batters he faced and walking a mere 7.8% of them. Last season, he started in the bullpen while the club began stretching him into a starter as the season progressed. He was fantastic, tossing 135.1 innings of 2.46 ERA (3.04 FIP) ball, with a 4.68 K/BB and a 40.9% ground ball rate. Steamer projects the left-hander to regress to a respectable 3.74 ERA and 3.84 FIP in ’23, with an 8.95% strikeout rate to a 2.75% walk rate across 141 presumed innings.

Pete Fairbanks

Fairbanks is reportedly guaranteed $12 million over the next three seasons including a $1 million buyout for the 2026 season. The right-hander will be paid $3.67 million annually between 2023-25, while the option comes with a $7 million base value which also contains various incentives and escalators that could max it out at $24.6 million across four seasons.

Over the past four seasons, Fairbanks has pitched to a 3.46 ERA and a 2.83 FIP with a 12.67% strikeout rate and a 3.78 walk rate across 114.1 frames. It should be noted that over the last three seasons, the righty owns a 2.70 ERA and a 33.8% strikeout rate over 93.1 innings.

Fairbanks has been prevented from working a full slate of innings over a 162-game season. Two seasons ago, he twice landed on the injured list due to shoulder troubles — first, a strained rotator cuff followed by a bout of inflammation — missing roughly a month each time. He missed more than three months last season due to a lat strain.

Durability concerns aside, his ’22 campaign illustrates the dominant arm the Rays are locking up via this deal. His heater averaged a blistering 99.2 mph while he maintained a 1.13 ERA and 0.86 FIP with a superb 43.7% strikeout rate (including a 17% whiff rate), a 3.4% walk rate, and an above-average 53.3% ground-ball rate. Fairbanks didn’t allow a run over his final 22 innings of the season. And while he is projected to regress to a 2.92 ERA/2.86 FIP/3.60 K:BB, that is a more than serviceable slash line.

Yandy Díaz

2/1/2023 Update: The Rays formally announced their extension with Díaz on Tuesday. The infielder will be paid $6 million in 2023, $8 million in 2024 and $10 million in 2025. The extension also includes a $12 million option for a fourth season, which does not contain a buyout.

The Rays and Yandy Díaz are close to finalizing a three-year, $24 million deal that contains a club option for 2026.

The extension would cover Díaz’s final two seasons of arbitration control and at least one of his free agent-eligible seasons. He and the Rays were slated for an arbitration hearing to determine his ’23 salary after not reaching an agreement by the filing deadline — the infielder was seeking $6.3 million and the club countered with $5.5 million. However, it now looks like Díaz will be the third arbitration-hearing-bound Rays player to sign an extension this week.

Díaz slashed .266 BA/.359 OBP/.418 SLG/.777 OPS over his first three seasons in Tampa Bay, good for a solid 117 wRC+ over 1026 plate appearances. His production was up last season, with Díaz posting a 146 wRC+ while hitting .296 BA/.401 OBP/.423 SLG/.824 OPS with nine homers over 558 PA. He crushed southpaws last season to the tune of an .892 OPS over 145 PA.

Díaz has never been known for his glovework — his defensive metrics have been below average over 1282.1 innings as a third baseman since 2020. However, the Rays could roll Díaz out more often as a first baseman in 2023 and beyond.

Locking up the infielder is a good move for Tampa Bay. While his 146 wRC+ is a high-water mark for Díaz, there isn’t much to suggest that those numbers are anomalous, and it’s reasonable for the Rays to expect roughly similar production going forward (over the life of the extension). In-kind, and per Steamer, he is expected to slash .282 BA/.379 OBP/.424 SLG/.803 OPS, with a .354 wOBA, a 138 wRC+, and a 4.0 fWAR in 2023.

The Rays still have another four players with unresolved arbitration cases: First baseman/outfielder Harold Ramirez ($2.2 million vs. $1.9 million), left-hander Colin Poche ($1.3 million vs. $1.175 million), right-hander Ryan Hander ($1.2 million vs. $1 million) and right-hander Jason Adam ($1.775 million vs. $1.55 million). The four exchanged figures with the team on January 13 after being unable to come to terms on a one-year salary figure.

Rays trade Brooks Raley to NYM for prospect Keyshawn Askew

The Tampa Bay Rays traded southpaw Brooks Raley to the Mets on Wednesday.

On Wednesday, the Tampa Bay Rays traded left-handed reliever, Brooks Raley, to the Mets in exchange for left-handed prospect Keyshawn Askew.

Raley turned in a solid 2022 campaign, tossing 53.2 innings of 2.68 ERA/2.74 FIP baseball, with a 27.9% strikeout rate, a 6.8% walk rate, and a 37.5% ground ball rate. He notched six saves and 22 holds on the season. You might be asking, “Why trade away a quality arm?”

Tampa Bay does not shy away from trading players coming off solid seasons, especially if they feel regression could be in order. At this point, it is the standard operating procedure for the Rays as they always look to keep a well-stocked farm system by selling high on big-league talent. Without the left-hander, the Rays still have Jalen Beeks, Garrett Cleavinger, and Colin Poche as left-handed options in the ‘pen. It’s should be assumed that this move was made with an eye toward opening a roster spot for a presumed future acquisition.

In return, the Rays added Askew — a 10th-round draft pick for the Mets in 2021 — to their system. The 23-year-old spent time in Single-A and High-A last season, performing to a 2.44 ERA/3.09 FIP across 66.1 innings with a 34.2% strikeout rate and 10.4% walk rate. He works from a very low arm slot and boasts a running low-90s sinker and a sweeping slider. It’s plainly obvious why the Rays would be interested.

Noteworthiness

— Just so you are aware, I’m not avoiding the recent developments in the Rays’ stadium saga. Rather, I have been swamped with work and haven’t had a moment to really sit down and write a summary. Hopefully, as the week rolls into the weekend, I will have something around Saturday or Sunday. Thank you for your patience!

Rays Roster Moves: Zach Eflin to sign a three-year contract with Tampa Bay

The Rays reportedly signed right-hander Zach Eflin to a three-year deal on Thursday.

After clearing the roster by way of non-tenders and trades, the Tampa Bay Rays began building the 2023 roster on Thursday, as they reportedly inked a three-year deal with right-hander Zach Eflin. They have been linked to Sean Murphy, Dominic Smith, Brandon Nimmo, and Jacob deGrom in recent weeks as well.

The deal is supposedly a $40 million deal, and Eflin will make $11 million in each of the next two seasons (making him the highest-paid player on the roster next season), followed by an $18 million salary in 2025. The deal is pending a physical.

The Orlando native was initially drafted by the Padres, although he had spent his entire big-league career with the Phillies. He reached the majors by the middle of the 2016 campaign and bounced on and off the MLB roster for the first couple of seasons. After struggling at first, Eflin has settled in as a capable mid-rotation starter.

In 2018, the right-hander made 24 starts and worked to a 3.80 FIP and a 3.27 xERA across 128 innings. That sparked a consistent stretch of results. Between 2018-22, Eflin posted a FIP between 3.39 and 4.85.

Even though he boasted a 10.68 K/9 during the abbreviated 2020 campaign, he typically misses bats at a slightly below-average level — keeping the ball on the ground at a solid 43.0 GB% overall. That being said, he’s proven to be an excellent strike-thrower.

He started last season by performing to a 4.37 ERA with a 19.6% strikeout percentage and a 5.3% walk rate through his first 13 starts. He, however, landed on the injured list at the end of June with a right knee contusion — costing him over two months. By the time Eflin was reinstated in early September, Philadelphia had very little time to build him back up before the season’s end. Instead, they plugged him into a short relief role where he made seven relief appearances during the regular season. From there, Eflin tossed 10.2 innings over 10 outings as a high-leverage arm during the Phillies’ playoff run.

The right-hander boasts a 93 mph sinker that has slight arm-side run and some natural sinking action and a 78 mph curveball that has slight glove-side movement, while also mixing in a 90 mph cutter, a 93 mph four-seam fastball that has some natural sinking action, and a firm 87 mph changeup. While he typically doesn’t miss many bats, his ability to control his repertoire allowed him to find a fair amount of success in Philadelphia’s hitter-friendly home environment. That should be bolstered in the pitcher-friendly Trop.

He looks to be plugged into the back of the rotation behind Shane McClanahan, Tyler Glasnow, Drew Rasmussen, and Jeffrey Spring. It should be noted that Luis Patiño, Yonny Chirinos, and Josh Fleming are on hand as rotation or bulk options for what should again be another strong Tampa Bay pitching staff.

The Rays were willing to look past his concerning injury history to add Eflin — a hurler that’s typically effective when healthy.

LBWMF: Rays 1, Guardians 2

José Siri hit his first big-league postseason home run on Friday. (Photo Credit: Tampa Bay Rays)

After a 2-1 pitcher’s duel on Friday, in which Tampa Bay came out on the losing end of things, the Rays look to even the best of three American League Wildcard Series this afternoon.

Shane McClanahan almost went pitch-for-pitch with Shane Bieber, going seven innings and giving up two runs on seven hits with five punchouts. The two Cleveland runs came in the sixth inning after Ahmed Rosario singled with one out, bringing José Ramírez to the plate. Ramírez got just enough of a misplaced changeup for a two-run wall-scraper to right center, giving Cleveland all the runs they’d need on the afternoon. The left-hander retired five of his last six after the home run to finish his outing on an efficient 85 pitches (58 strikes, 68% strike rate). If Tampa Bay can eke out a pair of wins, and move on to the ALDS, McClanahan would line up to face New York.

Unfortunately for Tampa Bay, Bieber was a few pitches better than McClanahan. The right-hander exploited the Rays’ hitters, leaning on off-speed and breaking stuff that found the outer portion of the zone. They couldn’t lay off his breaking pitches. Beyond that, Bieber received more than a few friendly calls from home plate umpire Doug Eddings.

Bieber held the Rays hitless until the fifth inning when Harold Ramírez led off the frame with a single, and scoreless until the sixth inning when José Siri hit his first big-league postseason home run. He finished the day with 7.2 innings of one-run ball, allowing three hits with eight strikeouts.

The New What Next

Tyler Glasnow (0-0, 1.35 ERA, 2.96 FIP) will get the start in the elimination contest, pitching opposite Triston McKenzie (11-11, 2.96 ERA, 3.59 FIP).

Tyler Glasnow was very good against Boston on Monday, hurling 3.2 scoreless frames, while allowing two hits and a walk with seven strikeouts. Glasnow was stretched out a little further, tossing 64 pitches (41 strikes, 64% strike rate). That puts him in a good position to throw 75-80 pitches on Saturday. Over his two outings, he’s allowed one run on four hits and two walks while striking out 10 batters over 6.2 innings. In that time, he maintains a 1.35 ERA and 2.96 FIP, with a 0.90 WHIP, and a 5.00 K/BB.

Something else to consider:

Triston McKenzie allowed one run on four hits over five frames against Kansas City on Monday. He struck out four. McKenzie gave up a run in the third inning but otherwise worked a pretty clean outing. The 25-year-old right-hander ended his regular season by allowing three runs or fewer in his final 11 starts, posting a 2.27 ERA through 71.1 innings during that stretch. In his previous start against Tampa Bay, McKenzie allowed one earned run on three hits and a walk while striking out six across six innings. Over his 2022 campaign, McKenzie owned an impressive 2.96 ERA and a 3.59 FIP, with a 4.32 K/BB across 31 appearances (30 starts). Key Matchups: Christian Bethancourt (2-5, 2B, RBI), Ji-Man Choi (1-4, 2B, BB), José Siri (1-4)

You can read about the series in our preview, while the starting lineup is below.

Rays 10/8/22 Starting Lineup

  1. Díaz 3B
  2. Franco SS
  3. Arozarena LF
  4. Ramírez DH
  5. Choi 1B
  6. Paredes 2B
  7. Margot RF
  8. Bethancourt C
  9. Siri CF

TNWN: Rays vs Guardians — an AL Wildcard Series preview

Can Ji-Man Choi keep up his toasty ways in the postseason?

After punching their ticket to a fourth consecutive postseason appearance, the Tampa Bay Rays head to Cleveland, where they will open the best of three American League Wildcard series on Friday. The Rays dropped five in a row, and seven of their last eight to end the regular season, while the Guardians won seven of their last 10 including two of three against the Rays a week or so back.

At 86-76 on the season, the Rays enter play 10 games above .500, having locked down their playoff spot on Friday, in Houston. Meanwhile, the Guardians enter play 22 games above .500, having won the AL Central title.

If Tampa Bay’s performance down the stretch is representative of anything, this could be a quick series win for Cleveland. After all, the Rays put up a lackluster .211 BA/.288 OBP/.338 SLG/.626 OPS line over the final two weeks of the season, with a less-than-optimal 84 wRC+ … not to mention an even worse slash line over the last seven days. The lag in success, though, can be explained, in part, by an unlucky .274 BABIP — some 21 points below their season BABIP of .295 (a .229 BABIP over the last seven days). That, in turn, was due in part to a team strategy to start resting players in anticipation of the postseason or get them healthy. Enter Yandy Díaz, who has sat on the shelf for the better part of September due to left shoulder soreness. His re-addition will help the Rays immensely. It makes the lineup thicker, and it allows manager Kevin Cash to cobble together a more potent lineup.

Beyond that, while Cleveland has outperformed Tampa Bay offensively over the last month-plus, both teams are pretty even overall. Both, too, could be in for regression, be that positive or negative. The Rays have underperformed their season BABIP over the last month (despite barrels a-plenty), while the Guardians have overperformed their season BABIP. And while there is a rather large discrepancy in production between both teams over the last week (78 wRC+ vs 105 wRC+), they are pretty close to one another when looking at the overall numbers (101 wRC+ vs 99 wRC+).

Something to keep in the back of your mind as well, in spite of their high contact and low strikeout tendencies, the Guardians have two exploitable weaknesses: hitting against southpaws and heaters. Cleveland has struggled against lefties all season, finishing with a wRC+ 20 points higher against righties. As Dan Szymborski (FanGraphs) noted, only the Marlins had a larger platoon split in that direction. They also had the second-worst offense in baseball against fastballs this season — sitting 40 runs below league average and combining for a .383 slugging percentage on fastballs. Per Szymborski, both of those numbers edged out only the Tigers.

To navigate those waters, Cash will call upon the services of fireballers Shane McClanahan and Tyler Glasnow, and presumably, Jeffrey Springs should there need to be a rubber match on Sunday.

The Rays went 2-4 against the Guardians this season and 1-2 in Cleveland.

Pitching Probables

As mentioned above, Kevin Cash will turn to Shane McClanahan (12-8, 2.54 ERA, 3.00 FIP) and Tyler Glasnow (0-0, 1.35 ERA, 2.96 FIP) in the first two games of the series, and likely Jeffrey Springs (9-5, 2.46 ERA, 3.04 FIP) on Sunday should there be a game three. Terry Francona will counter with Shane Bieber (13-8, 2.88 ERA, 2.87 FIP), Triston McKenzie (11-11, 2.96 ERA, 3.59 FIP), and Cal Quantrill (15-5, 3.38 ERA, 4.12 FIP).

Shane McClanahan got the start Saturday and allowed two runs on five hits and a walk while striking out two over five innings. McClanahan bounced back from a rough outing last Sunday versus Toronto, but the Rays’ offense didn’t muster enough run support — or any whatsoever if we are being honest. The ace exited the game after 67 pitches (45 strikes, 67% strike rate), presumably to give him a bit of rest with the Rays’ playoff spot confirmed Friday. The southpaw finished the regular season with a 2.54 ERA and a 3.01 FIP (2.60 xFIP), a 0.93 WHIP, and a 5.11 K/BB across 166.1 innings through 28 starts.

Shane Bieber struck out three across five innings on Sunday against the Royals, allowing two runs (one earned) on seven hits and a walk. After scattering two hits and a walk through the first three frames, Bieber ran into trouble in the fourth inning and was the victim of some bad defense. The Royals hit three singles and scored one of their two runs following a throwing error by Gabriel Arias. The five frames completed brought Bieber’s season total to exactly 200 — his second time reaching that mark in his career. Prior to that, the right-hander allowed four runs on six hits against the Rays while striking out six across six innings. He finished the regular season with a 2.88 ERA and a 2.87 FIP, with a 1.04 WHIP, and a 5.50 K/BB through 31 starts. Key Matchups: Ji-Man Choi (5-13, 2 2B, RBI, 2 BB), Yandy Díaz (1-4), Wander Franco (1-3, 2B), David Peralta (1-3, RBI), Harold (1-3, 2B, RBI), José Siri (1-2, HR, 2 RBI), Taylor Walls (1-2)

Tyler Glasnow was very good against Boston on Monday, hurling 3.2 scoreless frames, while allowing two hits and a walk with seven strikeouts. Glasnow was stretched out a little further, tossing 64 pitches (41 strikes, 64% strike rate). That puts him in a good position to throw 75-80 pitches on Saturday. Over his two outings, he’s allowed one run on four hits and two walks while striking out 10 batters over 6.2 innings. In that time, he maintains a 1.35 ERA and 2.96 FIP, with a 0.90 WHIP, and a 5.00 K/BB.

Something else to consider:

Triston McKenzie allowed one run on four hits over five frames against Kansas City on Monday. He struck out four. McKenzie gave up a run in the third inning but otherwise worked a pretty clean outing. The 25-year-old right-hander ended his regular season by allowing three runs or fewer in his final 11 starts, posting a 2.27 ERA through 71.1 innings during that stretch. In his previous start against Tampa Bay, McKenzie allowed one earned run on three hits and a walk while striking out six across six innings. Over his 2022 campaign, McKenzie owned an impressive 2.96 ERA and a 3.59 FIP, with a 4.32 K/BB across 31 appearances (30 starts). Key Matchups: Christian Bethancourt (2-5, 2B, RBI), Ji-Man Choi (1-4, 2B, BB), José Siri (1-4)

Jeffrey Springs allowed one run on two hits and one walk over three innings against the Red Sox on a rainy Tuesday night. He struck out three. After throwing at least five innings in 11 of his previous 12 starts, Springs was pulled early Tuesday after completing the third inning to give him extra rest ahead of the postseason. The one run he surrendered came on a Christian Arroyo single after he allowed a leadoff walk to Alex Verdugo and a base hit to Eric Hosmer. Springs completes his season with a career-high 135.1 innings pitched to go along with a 2.46 ERA and a 3.04 FIP, with 144 punchouts.

Cal Quantrill struck out four in five innings while allowing a run on four hits on Tuesday against the Royals. Quantrill scattered two singles over the first four innings, holding the Royals scoreless. After retiring the first two batters in the fifth, he gave up consecutive hits while a run came around to score. The right-hander allowed one run in each of his last three starts, lowering his ERA for the season to 3.38, and his FIP to 4.12. In his previous start against Tampa Bay, Quantrill allowed one run on three hits over six innings, however, he gave up a ton of hard contact in the outing. One cannot live on the hope of good BABIP luck (just ask Corey Kluber). Key Matchups: Christian Bethancourt (1-3, 2B), Yandy Díaz (2-3, 3B), Wander Franco (3-6, 2B), David Peralta (3-4, RBI), José Siri (2-2, 2B)

Noteworthiness

— The Rays released their Wildcard roster on Friday, which you can see below. Among the roster additions is Javy Guerra, who got the spot over fellow righty JT Chargois, which suggests Kevin Cash is prioritizing whiffs over contact. Also worth noting, Drew Rasmussen will be in bullpen for Tampa Bay on Friday, and available for whatever is needed — Corey Kluber as well. Jeffrey Springs, who pitched Tuesday, could be in ‘pen Saturday, although it would make sense to start him Sunday (if necessary) vs. a team that struggles versus left-handed pitching. Finally, Nate Lowe was added to the postseason taxi squad.