The Rays are next in our 2012 Contract Issues series. Here's what the team faces after the 2011 season:
Eligible For Free Agency (4)
- The Rays might be able to extract a draft pick for Johnny Damon, if he's a Type B and he agrees to decline an arbitration offer.
- Felipe Lopez, Juan Cruz, and Casey Kotchman are also eligible for free agency.
Contract Options (3)
- James Shields: $7MM club option with a $2MM buyout. Otherwise arbitration eligible. This seems like it will be an easy choice to exercise. Shields is under control through 2014, and if he becomes available this summer or winter the Rays could get a nice bounty. We're getting ahead of ourselves, though – the team is only three games back in the AL East.
- Kelly Shoppach: $3.2MM club option with a $300K buyout. Shoppach hasn't done much hitting in his Rays career, so this is a tough call. One factor to consider is the progress of catching prospect Robinson Chirinos.
- Kyle Farnsworth: $3.3MM club option with a $650K buyout. He's gotten the job done so far, and this option will merit consideration.
Arbitration Eligible (7)
- First time: David Price, Jeff Niemann
- Second time: Dan Johnson, Andy Sonnanstine
- Third time: B.J. Upton, J.P. Howell, Joel Peralta
Price is primed for a record-setting salary for a first-time arbitration eligible starting pitcher, say around $5.5MM. Niemann could get $3MM, though the Rays could trade him as early as this summer even if they are contending. Upton's price will be held down by his unspectacular offense, but he could get $7MM or more and is also a trade candidate. There is some uncertainty with the other pitchers but for the sake of argument if everyone besides Johnson is retained the total bill could be around $21MM.
2012 Payroll Obligation
The Rays' 2012 payroll obligation, according to Cot's, is $13MM excluding buyouts. However we could tack on as much as $35MM if the three options are exercised and the arbitration eligibles are retained. That'd have the club $6MM over this year's payroll, which was reduced drastically from years prior. There are many moving parts here, and given their current big league talent and highly-regarded farm system, the Rays should find a way to compete next year even if payroll stays under $50MM. That is no small feat.