After trading Brad Boxberger on Thursday, and waiving Chase Whitley — who was claimed by the Atlanta Braves — on Friday, the Tampa Bay Rays tendered the contracts of eight of the nine remaining arbitration eligible players at the non-tender deadline: Alex Colomé, Corey Dickerson, Matt Duffy, Adeiny Hechavarria, Dan Jennings, Brad Miller, Jake Odorizzi, Steven Souza Jr. and Jesús Sucre.
We’ve tendered contract offers to nine of our arbitration-eligible players: RHP Alex Colomé, OF/DH Corey Dickerson, IF Matt Duffy, SS Adeiny Hechavarria, LHP Dan Jennings, IF Brad Miller, RHP Jake Odorizzi, OF Steven Souza Jr. & C Jesús Sucre. #RaysUp pic.twitter.com/FLdD93bAgc
— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) December 2, 2017
Xavier Cedeno was the lone non-tender candidate. The moves reduced the number of players on the 40-man roster to 37, and the team now has the flexibility to make a 2-for-1 or 3-for-1 deal — in terms of rostered players — while the three open spots allows for free-agent acquisitions.
The most surprising move may have been the decision to keep Miller, who is projected to earn $4.4 million through arbitration in 2018. It is a gamble by a front office that expects the infielder to rebound from a poor, injury-shortened 2017 followup to a 2016 breakout season. Yet the Rays also could trade Miller later in the offseason. At any rate, Senior Vice President of Baseball Operations, Chaim Bloom, expects a return to form next season.
We know the extent of his physical ability, and we’ve seen what he can do and what he’s capable of at the plate, Bloom said. That’s not something that we’re projecting on necessarily. It’s something that we’ve seen him do in the past and believe that he has the potential to do again. … We wouldn’t have tendered him (Friday) if we didn’t think that he had the ability to rebound.
Should Miller break camp after Spring Training, it’s thought that he will slot in at DH and first base, likely platooning the position with Jake Bauers.
Bloom explained the other roster decisions, clearly positioning the team to rely heavily on the stock of young arms in the bullpen.
You look at some of the arms coming who’ve started and relieved, and while we want to make sure we have a stable group, we want to give opportunity to those guys to realize their upside.
The Rays have several fireballers at Triple-A or with big league experience, including Jose Alvarado, Diego Castillo, Ian Gibaut, Jaime Schultz and Ryne Stanek.
The Cedeno decision had more to do with his ability to stay healthy after missing most of 2017 with forearm tightness, not to mention the end of the 2016 season due to neck soreness.
Obviously 2017 didn’t go how we hoped and how we did, Bloom said. Based on some of the options we have, we decided not to tender him.
Although left-handed relief options are a commodity in baseball, the addition of Dan Jennings at the 2017 trade deadline, plus the development of Alvarado made Cedeno expendable. Tampa Bay also signed Vidal Nuno to a minor-league deal and Adam Kolarek, who made 12 appearances last season.
Non-tendered LHP Xavier Cedeno is open to possibly re-signing w/#Rays but has already received “a lot of interest from other clubs,” agent Melvin Roman said
— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) December 3, 2017
Still Bloom said the team is expected to “stay engaged,” and could have Cedeno back, likely on a minor-league deal.
As for Whitley, waiving the right-hander had more to do with who was behind (and ahead of) him in the pecking order.
(Chase has) tremendous character and was a great teammate, said Bloom. We’re blessed with a good amount of options to start/relieve. We didn’t see the lane of opportunity for him (here).
But the decision that decision leaves the Rays without a long-reliever, which Neil Solondz (Rays Radio) wrote about:
…the decision to put Whitley on waivers would pair to be a vote of confidence for Chih-Wei Hu, along with others. Whitley pitched 57.1 innings with the Rays last year, and another nine for Durham. With Tampa Bay, Whitley gave up 48 hits and 16 walks in 57.1 innings, striking out 43. Hu made his first six MLB appearances, and allowed five hits and four walks over ten innings, striking out nine. In Triple-Durham, Hu struck out 57 batters over 61.2 innings, while allowing just 12 walks.
This was Hu’s first year as a reliever, and his fastball averaged 93.5 mph in the majors with more swing and miss than Whitley, who was at 90.1. Pruitt or several other of the potential starters mentioned (as well as some other converted starters that now are relievers) could also play a long or multi-inning role.
The Rays dealt Boxberger on Thursday, and it appears that the former All-Star didn’t really have a spot in the ‘pen moving forward.
Here’s a guy (Boxberger) who’s made some pretty great contributions over the yearson and off the field. Looking forward, the role we projected for him, and what we got back made sense for us.
The three departures saved the Rays an estimated $4.3 million in their effort to trim the payroll, although Bloom described the moves more as “individual baseball decisions.”