Arbitration Eligibles: Tampa Bay Rays

Matt Swartz has developed a very accurate model that MLBTR uses to project arbitration salaries, as explained in this series of posts. We've heard from many MLB teams and agencies that reference the projections in their work.  The Rays are next in our series.  Estimated service time is in parentheses, and estimated 2014 salary follows.

Price projects to have the third-largest salary of any arbitration eligible player, and he'll go to arbitration again after the 2014 season.  He missed over a month with triceps tightness this year and came back much improved, posting a 2.53 ERA in his final 18 starts with a K/BB ratio near eight.  The 28-year-old is far superior to any free agent starter and one of the best in baseball.  He told reporters on an October conference call he expects to be traded this winter, perhaps due to his rising salary, diminishing team control, and the precedent set by the Rays with James Shields and Matt Garza.  Indeed, a blockbuster deal this winter seems likely, and if Price lands with a new team, that club will surely have interest in locking him up barring further health complications.  I anticipate something in the range of five years and $125MM, if the contract includes his final arbitration year.  Otherwise Price could wait, re-establish his health in 2014, and use Clayton Kershaw's next contract to leap past the $135-140MM in new money guaranteed to Justin Verlander and Felix Hernandez.

The rest of the Rays' arbitration class is more pedestrian.  Joyce continued to serve as a useful platoon outfielder.  Rodriguez, Lobaton, and Fuld held down lesser reserve roles, with Fuld facing at least some threat of a non-tender despite another low salary projection.

Starters Hellickson and Niemann project for similar salaries.  Despite improved peripheral stats, Hellickson's third season was his worst in terms of ERA, with a 5.17 mark.  The Rays sent him to the minors for a brief period toward the end of the season, which was used as a break since the organization never intended to have him pitch at a lower level.  Hellickson is likely penciled into next year's rotation, especially if Price is on the move.  Niemann has missed most of the last two seasons, and had shoulder surgery in April this year.  Another $3MM guarantee would be risky, so a non-tender seems likely.

Wright, McGee, and Ramos are up for arbitration in the bullpen, and all seem in good standing after decent seasons.

Assuming the Rays tender contracts to Price, Joyce, Hellickson, Wright, Rodriguez, McGee, Lobaton, and Ramos, they're looking at an estimated $25.7MM for eight arbitration eligible players.


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