With 11-days left until pitchers and catchers report to camp in Port Charlotte, Chris Archer and nine other Rays (hopefuls or otherwise) worked out under the big top on Friday.
— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) February 2, 2018
Local product Ryan Weber joined Archer, as well as Brent Honeywell, Jake Odorizzi, Nathan Eovaldi, Jose De Leon, Ryne Stanek, Ryan Yarbrough, Christian Arroyo, and Micah Johnson for the optional team workout. The pre-Spring Training workouts will shift to Port Charlotte this Monday.
In spite of ongoing chatter regarding Archer’s potential trade candidacy, the right-hander said he does not expect to be traded heading into Spring Training. Archer continues to train and condition as though he will be the Rays ace and 2018, and for good reason: the team has little motivation to move a hurler that’s locked such an affordable contract.
Archer will be 29 for most of the 2018 season and is still under team control through the 2021 season. He will make $6.4-million this upcoming season, and his yearly amount will increase each season and max out at $11-million in 2021 as part of a team option.
I’ve raised my level of expectations, Archer told the media on Friday, with the consistency factor…being on the field healthy. I want to continue to grow and show the elite pitcher that I am 34 starts out of the year…we have a high expectation for every guy that steps on that mound, whether you’re the number one starter or you’re starting the fifth game of the season, we have a very high expectation and I plan on continuing that.
My goal going into the season is to be the most well-conditioned pitcher in the league, Archer said. I want to be on the field as many times as I can for our team.
Those do not sound like the words of someone who thinks he’ll break camp with another team. In fact, Archer previously noted that he feels confident that he will stick around, saying:
(Rays GM Erik Neander) Made me feel pretty good about being with the Rays in 2018.
The hurler told the media he is excited to watch the Rays number one prospect, Brent Honeywell, this spring. Honeywell repped Tampa Bay at the 2017 Futures Game, and was recently named the 12th-best prospect in all of baseball by MLB.com.
He’s 23 years old and is already really really good and has upside, Archer said. I’ve seen some clips (of Honeywell pitching), I’ve seen him pitch in Minor League Spring Training games, but facing big league competition is going to be fun to watch because he’s definitely a competitor. We have a stable of guys who are ready to fill in and eat up a lot of innings for us at a high level.
You can hear all of Archer’s comments from his interview Friday below (courtesy of Rays Radio):
Nathan Eovaldi, the hard throwing right-hander that is expected to compete for a spot in the starting rotation, told Marc Topkin (Tampa Bay Times) that he will report for the first spring workout, on February 14, fully healthy after spending 2017 rehabbing form Tommy John surgery.
I’m just ready, Eovaldi said. I was healthy and ready to go at the end of the year last year so I went into the off-season confident, as if I was activated, with no restrictions. The off-season’s been great, no issues, no little injuries, so I’m ready for spring.
In other news, manager Kevin Cash said Brad Miller would be considered the first baseman as of now, although he could also end up at second base if the Rays acquire another first baseman. There’s also the chance that he will be released from his $4.5-million contract as the team continues to shed payroll.
Shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria has won his arbitration case against the Rays according to Bob Nightengale (USA Today Sports).
Roberto Osuna loses arbitration case at $5.3 million. Adeiny Hechavarria wins at $5.9 million
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) February 3, 2018
Hechavarria will earn $5.9-million in 2018, which is more than both the $5.35-million that Tampa Bay had filed for, and the $5.0-million figure projected by MLB Trade Rumors. His arbitrated salary comes as a $1.55-million raise in his third trip through the process. Hechavarria hit .261 with eight homers, 30 RBI and a .695 OPS in 97 games last season, and played tremendous defense for Tampa Bay.
The Rays will conclude their arbitration hearings on February 12 with RHP Jake Odorizzi, who won his arbitration hearing against the team last season.
According to Kyle Downing (MLB Trade Rumors) the Rays have added catcher Adam Moore on a minors pact.
The 33-year-old will receive an invitation to spring training camp, writes Downing. Moore hit .238/.313/.369 with a 31.4% strikeout rate across 277 plate appearances with the Columbus Clippers (the Indians’ Triple-A affiliate) in what ultimately ended up being his first season without MLB action since 2008. Since being drafted 171st overall by the Mariners in 2006, he’s played in the majors for them and three other clubs: the Royals, Padres and Indians. Moore owns a .197/.237/.303 lifetime slash line and has been worth just over a win below replacement for his career.
— Noah Pransky (Shadow of the Stadium, WTSP News) offered his take on the news that the Rays will call Ybor City is their preferred location for a new stadium.
On the subject of financing, Hillsborough County appears to be targeting federal transit dollars to help mitigate the cost of a new stadium. Yet as Pransky noted, there is a hesitance on the part of county commissioners to use tax dollars to fund the project:
Commissioners told 10Investigates there remains little appetite to make up the nine-figure funding gap the Rays have suggested may be needed to get a stadium built. And several said no new stadium will get built in Tampa without enormous private sector contributions.
Major national developers are expected to visit Tampa this month to explore the possibilities of creating a new entertainment district sandwiched between Ybor and downtown.
Sources tell 10Investigates the funding discussions seem to be centering around two financing mechanisms: Community Redevelopment Areas (CRAs), which earmark a portion of county property taxes for projects in that same area; and a new entertainment district tax, which would be assessed on businesses around the ballpark.
However, those proposed funding mechanisms present challenges. Politically, both mechanisms involve tax dollars, which some commissioners have sworn off. And state Speaker of the House Richard Corcoran has challenged Tampa’s authority to create special taxing districts.
There are also questions regarding the incredible amount of development that would be necessary to provide enough new tax revenue to fund hundreds of millions of dollars in stadium construction.
Pransky also confirmed our assumption that a new stadium in Tampa is not a foregone conclusion, especially if Hillsborough County cannot come up with a mechanism to fund the project which could cost $350-$400-million or more — given the amount of money the Rays are willing to contribute to the project:
The Rays are expected to announce in upcoming weeks that the Tampa location is their “preferred” new home, but funding challenges could keep St. Petersburg’s preferred location for a new stadium, the Tropicana Field site, on the table.
Pinellas County’s available city and county funding for a new stadium could also one day bring a site near the bay bridges, such as Derby Lane, back into the mix should Hillsborough fail to find financing suitable to the team.