The Rays announced that they have signed right-hander Ernesto Frieri to a one-year, Major League contract with an $800K base salary, which allows him to earn a total of $3.15MM via performance incentives. To clear roster space, they’ve designated Sean Rodriguez for assignment.
Frieri, formerly the Angels’ closer, had a down year in 2014 after posting a 2.76 ERA from 2009-13 between the Padres and Halos. He’s always missed a large number of bats and did so again in 2014, averaging 10.4 K/9 against 3.0 BB/9 in 41 2/3 innings. However, Frieri’s ERA spiked to 7.31 due to a bloated 19.3 percent homer-to-flyball ratio that is likely to dip back down toward his career rate of roughly 10 percent next season. He also saw his typically excellent strand rate plummet to 60.9 percent. The Angels flipped him to the Pirates in a one-for-one swap that netted Jason Grilli and ultimately got the better end of the deal, as Frieri would be designated for assignment by Pittsburgh after struggling there as well.
Frieri seems to be a classic buy-low candidate for a Rays team that has successfully turned around the careers of many struggling veterans in the past. He averaged a solid 94 mph on his fastball in 2014, and metrics such as xFIP (3.67) and SIERA (2.96) feel that he is an excellent candidate to return to form this season. There’s upside beyond the 2015 campaign for the Rays as well, as Frieri can be controlled through 2016 if he rebounds.
Rodriguez, also 29, batted just .211 with a .258 on-base percentage but a career-best .443 slugging percentage. The utility infielder did hit a career-high 12 homers, but the Rays apparently weren’t comfortable paying him something in the $2MM range projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz.