Tampa Bay Rays Rumors

Rays Extend Chris Archer

THURSDAY: If Archer does not reach Super Two status, he is guaranteed $20MM, MLBTR has learned. In that instance, he would receive a $1MM signing bonus, $500K in 2014, $1MM in 2015, $1MM in 2016, $3MM in 2017, $4.75MM in 2018 and $7MM in 2019. The option years and buyouts would not change, regardless of his Super Two status. Either way, the guarantee is still the largest ever for a player with less than one year of service time.

WEDNESDAY: The Rays have established themselves as annual contenders by extending young players early in their Major League careers, and the next such case presented itself today as the team has announced a six-year contract for right-hander Chris Archer. Archer's deal buys out all of his pre-arbitration and arbitration years, and will be worth $25.5MM if he achieves Super Two status but less if he does not (Super Two seems highly likely for Archer, who entered the year with 156 days of service). The contract also also contains a pair of club options that can push the value of the deal to $43.75MM over eight years. The Relativity Baseball client also reportedly receives a $500K bonus if he is traded during this contract.


Assuming he reaches that Super Two status, Archer will receive a $1MM signing bonus and a $500K salary in 2014, $1MM in 2015, $2.75MM in 2016, $4.75MM in 2017, $6.25MM in 2018 and $7.5MM in 2019.  The Rays can buy out Archer's 2020 option for $1.75MM.

Archer, 25, broke out with the Rays in 2013 with a strong performance that netted him a third-place finish in the American League Rookie of the Year voting. The North Carolina native posted a 3.22 ERA with 7.1 K/9, 2.7 BB/9 and a 46.8 percent ground-ball rate in 128 2/3 innings for the Rays, cementing himself as a member of the team's rotation. He averaged a blistering 95 mph on his fastball, which could eventually help him reach the his minor league levels of striking out a batter per inning. Perhaps most important for the Rays was Archer's improved command; he had averaged five walks per nine innings in his minor league career.

Archer's new deal is the largest ever for a player with less than one year of service time, eclipsing the six-year, $17.5MM extension and the five-year, $14MM extension signed by his own teammates Evan Longoria and Matt Moore, respectively.

The Rays originally acquired Archer from the Cubs along with Hak-Ju Lee, Sam Fuld, Brandon Guyer and Robinson Chirinos in exchange for Matt Garza, Fernando Perez and Zac Rosscup. That was actually the second trade of Archer's career though, as he was first drafted by the Indians and sent to Chicago along with John Gaub and Jeff Stevens to acquire Mark DeRosa back in 2008.

Archer was already under team control through the 2019 campaign, but this new contract will give the Rays options that run through the 2021 season, meaning the Rays haven't actually guaranteed any free-agent seasons with the deal. However, they will obtain cost certainty and two optional years of control, making it worthwhile risk for the team. From Archer's standpoint, he acquires financial security for a lifetime, sets a service time record and would hit the open market at age 33 if both options are eventually exercised.

For the 2014 season, Archer will join Moore, David Price, Alex Cobb and Jake Odorizzi/Jeremy Hellickson in the rotation (Hellickson is currently on the disabled list). While Price's long-term future with the club is in doubt, the Rays will now control Archer, Moore and Odorizzi through at least the 2019 season, with Cobb under control through 2017 via arbitration. Hellickson is controlled through 2016.

The Rays alerted the media that an announcement would be coming this morning, and Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports was the first to report the six-year agreement, noting that it was in the $25MM range (via Twitter). Jon Heyman of CBS Sports pegged the exact value (via Twitter), while Yahoo's Jeff Passan added the trade bonus. Passan and ESPN's Jerry Crasnick added details approximating the value of the option years, and Passan noted the Super Two technicality as well. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reported the year-to-year breakdown (via Twitter).

Photo courtesy of Kim Klement/USA Today Sports Images.

AL East Notes: Archer, Rays, Nunez, Blue Jays

The Rays officially announced their six-year, $25.5MM extension with Chris Archer in a press conference today.  The right-hander told reporters (including MLB.com's Bill Chastain) that the recent spate of pitching injuries around baseball influenced his decision to sign the contract.  "I don't know if all the injuries -- the head injuries, the concussions, the elbow injuries, some shoulder injuries -- that have happened of late, I don't know if they've happened as a sign for me, but I took them as a sign for me, a sign of what's unknown," Archer said.  "I sat down with my financial advisor. With this contract, I'm financially secure multiple times over again, through many generations. For me, that's all I ever wanted out of this game -- to be personally secure and have my family members secure as well."

Here's some more from around the AL East...

  • Alex Cobb and Wil Myers would seem to be the next logical extension candidates for the Rays, MLB.com's Adam Berry writes.  Cobb said he would "plead the fifth" when asked if he'd been approached by the team about a multiyear deal, while Myers said that he's just focused on playing and will let his agent handle any contractual business.  Berry's piece also contains several quotes from Rays executive VP Andrew Friedman about his team's strategy of locking up its young stars.
  • The Rays have had nine players suspended for PED usage and 14 players suspended for drug-related offenses overall since 2012 , Baseball Prospectus' Ben Lindbergh notes.  Tampa Bay leads all teams in both categories, and the recently-suspended Alex Colome is the only the latest of several of the Rays' top prospects to be hit with a suspension.  Lindbergh, however, believes this current spate of issues is only a matter of "chance," as the franchise doesn't have a glaring suspension record before 2012.
  • The Mets haven't discussed making a move for Eduardo Nunez, Mike Puma of the New York Post tweets, and it's "too early to say if they will have interest" in signing the infielder to bolster their shortstop depth.  The Yankees designated Nunez for assignment yesterday.
  • Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos told reporters (including Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star) that he isn't looking for external shortstop help with Jose Reyes on the DL.  Jonathan Diaz is currently filling in at short, and Anthopoulos doesn't think Reyes' injury will keep him out for too long.
  • ESPN's Jim Bowden (Insider subscription required) doesn't think the Blue Jays will contend this season and the club should deal some top stars in order to restock the farm system.  Edwin Encarnacion headlines Bowden's list of Toronto's ten best trade candidates, which also includes possible trade suitors.
  • In other AL East news, we posted a collection of Red Sox Notes earlier tonight.

AL East Notes: Lester, Victorino, Rays, Robertson

The lack of a contract extension between the Red Sox and Jon Lester now presents the possibility that this could be Lester's last Opening Day with the team, writes Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald. Lauber adds that the season will now be rife with speculation regarding Lester's contract situation and opines that a strong performance out of the 30-year-old lefty could make the Red Sox regret not presenting Lester with a "Scherzer-like offer" (six years, $144MM) when all is said and done. Of course, that deal would hardly represent the discount to which Lester has previously referred.

Here are some more notes on Lester, the Red Sox, and the AL East...

  • Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports appeared on WEEI's Dennis & Callahan show Monday morning and discussed a number of topics, including Lester. Rosenthal pointed to a column he wrote last week in which he said he felt that Lester should end up around five years and $115MM. He adds that the Red Sox won't be able to get a Dustin Pedroia-like extension very often: "Pedroia’s deal is ridiculously club-friendly, and if the Red Sox think they’re getting that deal out of every player they’re out of their minds."
  • The Red Sox announced today that Shane Victorino will open the season on the disabled list with a right hamstring strain, and Jackie Bradley Jr. will begin the year with the big league club. On the Dennis & Callahan show, Rosenthal talked about Victorino's importance to the club, noting that if he misses a significant chunk of time this season, it could lead many to wonder what might've been if the team hadn't let Jacoby Ellsbury go. However, as Rosenthal plainly states, Boston was simply never going to approach the kind of money that Ellsbury got from the division-rival Yankees.
  • Sportsnet's Ben Nicholson-Smith spoke with Rays GM Andrew Friedman about the club's transformation from a perennial 90-loss team to a divisional powerhouse despite one of the game's most modest payrolls. "We have to act decisively but with a smaller margin for error than most clubs, and so we can’t box ourselves in," said Friedman. "We need to react more quickly when circumstances change or opportunities present themselves." Nicholson-Smith's piece is full of excellent quotes from the Rays' GM and reminds how far the team has come since the days of Gabe Gross, Akinori Iwamura and Andy Sonnanstine, who were all on the Opening Day roster as recently as 2008.
  • Some scouts have expressed concern over David Robertson's fastball, George A. King III of the New York Post reported last night. Robertson's heater was sitting between 88 and 90 mph late in Spring Training. King notes that Robertson's fastball typically improves as the season goes on, but a look at his velocity charts (per Fangraphs) shows that he's been inconsistent at best over the past two seasons, and his end-of-season velocity hasn't been much better than his Opening Day heat. As MLBTR's Mark Polishuk noted in his recent review of the Yankees' offseason, the team did little to address the bullpen this offseason and is relying on a group of largely unproven relievers.

Yunel Escobar Changes Agents

Rays shortstop Yunel Escobar has switched representation, moving from Praver/Shapiro to Miami Sports Management, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. 

Escobar, 31, is under team control for 2015 on a $5MM club option. Assuming that is picked up -- which would be a given if he repeats his solid 2013 campaign -- then his new agents may not have much work to do until he hits the open market before the 2016 season. Of course, another extension is always possible, though it may be difficult to get Tampa to offer up much of a commitment beyond Escobar's age-32 season.

Phillies Acquire Jayson Nix From Rays

The Phillies have acquired infielder Jayson Nix from the Rays for cash considerations and have added him to the team's 40-man roster, the club announced. The club further announced that it had informed Reid Brignac that he would not make the club.

Nix, 31, spent last year with the Yankees, taking 303 trips to the plate for New York. He ended up with a .236/.308/.311 triple-slash. In parts of six MLB seasons, Nix has a lifetime .218/.290/.358 line.

Rays To Sign Mike Fontenot

The Rays have added infielder Mike Fontenot on a minor league deal, tweets Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Fontenot was released earlier today by the Nationals.

The 33-year-old had seen at least some time at the Major League level in every season since 2006 before spending last year with the Rays' Triple-A affiliate. He hit .264/.335/.379 in 120 games.

Rays To Re-Sign Erik Bedard

The Rays have agreed to re-sign left-handed starter Erik Bedard to a minor league deal, reports MLB.com's Bill Chastain via Twitter. Bedard will provide the club with some depth in the upper minors.

Bedard posted a 4.59 ERA in 151 innings (26 starts and six relief appearances) last year with Houston. He struck out 8.2 and walked 4.5 batters per nine, registering a 36.4% ground ball rate.

AL East Links: Murphy, Romine, Rays, McGowan

MLBTR's Offseason In Review series continued earlier today with my look at the Orioles' winter moves, covering everything from the Ubaldo Jimenez and Nelson Cruz signings to the lack of progress on extensions for Chris Davis, J.J. Hardy and Matt Wieters.  Here's some more from around the AL East...

  • Yankees GM Brian Cashman told reporters (including ESPN New York's Wallace Matthews) that he's "hearing from a lot of people about" catchers John Ryan Murphy and Austin Romine.  The Yankees have been shopping their catching depth for weeks, and now that Francisco Cervelli has won the backup job, Murphy and Romine could be more expendable.  Cashman, however, doesn't feel pressure to move either players.  "They’re assets. We’re not in any position where we have to do anything, but if something made sense, we’d consider it. But right now, we’re happy with what we’ve got," Cashman said.
  • Rays manager Joe Maddon told reporters (including Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times) that he has informed Wilson Betemit and Jayson Nix that they won't be making Tampa's Opening Day roster, in order to give the two players extra time to find another Major League opportunity.  The two veterans signed minor league deals with the Rays earlier this winter and have the ability to opt out, though Betemit told Topkin that he would play for Tampa's Triple-A affiliate if he couldn't find a roster spot elsewhere (Topkin believes Nix feels the same way).
  • Mark Lowe is also open to returning to the Rays, the veteran right-hander tells Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times.  Lowe's family lives in the Tampa area and he praised the Rays organization, saying that he would be willing to pitch at Triple-A unless, like Betemit and Nix, he finds a job with another team.  The Rays granted Lowe his release earlier today after he was also told he wouldn't make the 25-man roster.
  • The Blue Jays' decision to make Dustin McGowan their fifth starter raises concerns about whether McGowan is up to the task both performance-wise and health-wise, Sportsnet.ca's Shi Davidi writes.  Since McGowan made the rotation almost by default given how the Jays' other options struggled, Davidi wonders "if he and the Blue Jays are playing a game of Russian Roulette with his career" by returning McGowan to a starting role before he's even fully stretched out.  The injury-plagued McGowan missed three of the previous four seasons with shoulder and knee surgeries but pitched effectively over 25 2/3 innings out of the bullpen in 2013. 
  • Corey Brown didn't invoke the opt-out clause in his minor league contract with the Red Sox and will report to the club's Triple-A club, Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe reports.

Rays Release Mark Lowe

The Rays have released reliever Mark Lowe at his request, reports ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick (via Twitter). He had an opt-out clause that could be exercised this coming Friday.

Lowe, 30, had a strong spring for the Rays, allowing just one earned run in 10 1/3 innings while striking out 12 and walking just one batter. Of course, he struggled mightily in eleven MLB appearances last year for the Angels, issuing 8.5 free passes per nine against just 5.4 K/9. 

Rays Release Erik Bedard

The Rays have released pitcher Erik Bedard, tweets Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. The 35-year-old hurler is expected to seek an MLB opportunity, though Tampa is still interested in bringing him back at the Triple-A level if he does not find a big league roster spot.

Throwing for the Astros last year, Bedard managed a 4.59 ERA in 151 innings over 26 starts and six relief appearances. He struck out batters at a clip of 8.2 K/9 while surrendering 4.5 BB/9 and posting a 36.4% ground ball rate. The veteran southpaw should hold some appeal for clubs looking for an arm to eat innings at the back of a rotation or, possibly, in the bullpen.

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