The non-tender deadline passed late last night, and Tampa Bay chose to tender the contracts of seven arbitration eligible players (David Price, Jeff Niemann, Sam Fuld, Burke Badenhop, Matt Joyce, Sean Rodriguez, and Ryan Roberts) while opting to leave outfielder Ben Francisco out of the mix. The above mentioned players will now move on to arbitration. It should be mentioned that the Rays under Andrew Friedman have never lost an arbitration case.
Opting to tender the contract of Ryan Roberts came as a bit of a surprise. Roberts hit .214 in 60 games after being acquired July 24, just prior to the 2012 trade deadline. He made $2.01 million and is in line for an increase of around $3 million. Though the Rays haven’t made their plans for the middle infield known, keeping Roberts in the mix of things could find a team with Ben Zobrist at shortstop and Roberts at second.
Tendering Roberts’ contract does start to sure up the Rays infield, however the outfield seems to still be in a state of flux. Andrew Friedman was quoted as saying,
“I would have no issues saying that we’re trying to figure out what we’re going to do at DH and first base, potentially [seeking] an outfielder,” “There are different ways we can go because of versatility. We can look at different things.”
Choosing to non-tender Ben Francisco’s contract is a sure sign that the Rays are still in the market for another outfielder. But who they may be targeting is unknown. Are they potentially putting together some sort of package for Justin Upton? That fails to be seen at the moment. Also in question is who will be the Rays DH next season. Alfonso Soriano is still an intriguing prospect, but what would the Rays have to give for him? Then there’s the question of whether they’d be able to afford Soriano, even with the Cubs eating a chunk of his $18 MM per year contract. I think it is safe to say that if Tampa Bay makes a move in this direction, they will have to err toward either Soriano or Upton, not both.
A potential first baseman has entered the market, and he could be an intriguing option to anchor down the right corner. The Orioles chose to non-tender 1B/3B Mark Reynolds yesterday. Reynolds has some pop in his bat, something that the Rays are in need of. Reynolds started the 2012 season slowly, but hit 15 home runs after August 1st. He finished the 2012 season with 23 homers and 69 RBI, ultimately posting a .221 BA/.335 OBP/.429 SLG/.764 OPS batting line. Bill James projects that Reynolds could be a .231 BA/.336 OBP/.463 SLG/.799 OPS hitter in 2013, potentially bashing out 32 homers, and driving in 90 RBI. You may be asking what the downside to Mark Reynolds might be? Strikeouts…and a lot of them.
The 29-year-old struck out 159 times in 2012, posting a 29.6% strikeout percentage. He also has a career 11.9% to 32.6% BB/K ratio, however he didn’t lead the league in strikeouts for the first time since 2007. With all of this said, the question begs: Is he worth the risk? I think he might be.