Willy Aybar Rumors

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  • As the Marlins' courtship of Jose Reyes enters its second month, it remains unclear what the addition of Reyes would mean for Hanley Ramirez. As of late October, the team reportedly still hadn't spoken with Ramirez about a position change, and according to one source, he is opposed to moving. Ramirez seemed to cede some authority to the team while attending a winter league game last Wednesday, telling Caribe Multimedia, "I am the Marlins' shortstop… As of now, I'm the shortstop. Jose Reyes is a quality player, and he would be welcome on the team if we sign him. But in this case, the front office has the last word." Ramirez's claim to the six-hole is tempered in the immediate future by his recovery from shoulder surgery, which he admitted could cause him to miss some of Spring Training.
  • We've already heard today that David Ortiz has an offer in hand and is seeking a three-year deal. Ortiz reinforced that he has value on the open market in an interview with Julio Valdez at Dominican daily El Nacional, saying,"I'd like to stay in Boston — I'd really like to stay — but I'm not going to play for free."
  • Willy Aybar recently told a panel of appellate court judges in the Dominican Republic that he has a contract with a team in Japan for the upcoming season, but as to whether he'll be able to honor it, the 28-eight-year-old said, "Only God knows." According to Guillermina Santos at the Dominican daily El Día, the judges then ordered Aybar to remain in prison for allegedly assaulting his wife and disturbing the peace earlier this month, a decision which Aybar's lawyer says he will appeal.

Edmonton Capitals Sign Willy Aybar

The Edmonton Capitals of the independent North American League have signed Willy Aybar, the league announced. The Rays non-tendered the 28-year-old switch-hitter in December and he remained a free agent until today without drawing any reported interest.

The five-year veteran appeared in 100 games for the Rays last season, his third in Tampa. He finished the season with a .230/.309/.344 line through 309 plate appearances as a utility infielder. Aybar has a .258/.341/.399 career line and experience at all four infield positions since breaking in with the Dodgers in 2005.

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Youngest Remaining Free Agents

We're weeks into Spring Training now, so few notable free agents remain. But some players (min. 50 PAs) and pitchers (min. 20 IP) remain unsigned. Here's a look at the remaining free agents who will play the 2011 season while no older than 32:

  • Willy Aybar (28) – The Rays declined Aybar's option and non-tendered him, but he can play first, second and third and has a career .341 OBP. He wouldn't be in line for more than a minor league deal if he signs. 
  • Jeremy Bonderman (28) – Bonderman may sit the season out, but you have to think he can help someone (the Cardinals?) despite the 5.53 ERA he posted in 171 innings last year. He's only 28 and he has recovered from shoulder surgery.
  • Manny Corpas (28) - Corpas will miss the 2011 season as he recovers from Tommy John surgery. He posted a 4.62 ERA with 6.8 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 in 62 1/3 innings last year, and defense independent pitching stats suggest his ERA should have been lower, so he would have drawn interest if healthy.
  • Hank Blalock (30) - Blalock averaged 29 homers per season from 2003-05, when he made two All-Star teams. That power was nowhere to be seen last year, when he posted a .254/.319/.349 line in 69 plate appearances for the Rays. Blalock just turned 30 last fall, but he probably needs to rebuild value in the minor leagues to make a complete comeback.
  • Bobby Crosby (31) – Three teams were interested in the former AL Rookie of the Year earlier in the winter, but he remains on the open market. In 189 plate appearances for Pittsburgh and Arizona last year, Crosby hit .220/.294/.298 and played all four infield positions. 
  • Ryan Church (32) - Church, who was traded with Crosby from Pittsburgh to Arizona last summer, also struggled in 2010. He posted a .201/.265/.352 line, though he had 59 extra base hits as recently as 2007.
  • Ben Sheets (32) – If he wasn't going to miss the season with flexor tendon surgery, Sheets would likely have found a team by now. He won't sign this year.

American League Non-Tenders

This post will list all the American League players non-tendered today, but the best place to track all 200+ arbitration eligible players is our new non-tender tracker.

Rays Decline Options On Aybar, Wheeler

The Rays have declined their 2011 options on utilityman Willy Aybar and reliever Dan Wheeler, tweets Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times. 

Aybar's option was worth $2.2MM, and he will instead receive a $275K buyout from the Rays.  As Topkin points out, Aybar is still under team control and has two more years of arbitration as a Super Two player.  In three seasons in Tampa Bay, Aybar has a .715 OPS in 1007 plate appearances.  He's filled in at first, second and third, though the vast majority of his plate appearances last year were as a DH or pinch-hitter.

Wheeler will receive a $1MM buyout of his $4MM 2011 option.  The right-hander has pitched very well over the last three seasons in Tampa Bay (203 appearances, 3.24 ERA, 3.06 K/BB ratio, 7.5 K/9) but a set-up man earning $4MM is a luxury for a team that's planning to cut payroll.  Wheeler is also a Type A free agent and thus if he turns down arbitration from the Rays and signs elsewhere, Tampa Bay will receive two high draft picks.

Non-Tender Candidate: Willy Aybar

The Rays are a team built around versatility, and one of their most flexible pieces in recent years has been infielder Willy Aybar. The 27-year-old has spent the majority of his big league time at third base, but can also handle spot duty at first and second. 

Aybar isn't a traditional non-tender candidate in that the decision is simply whether or not to offer him a contract for next season. The Rays signed him to a two-year deal worth $2.6MM guaranteed before 2009, and that deal includes $2.2MM club option for 2011 that can instead be bought out for $275K. Aybar still has two more years of arbitration eligibility left ahead of him, so Tampa could decline the option and then non-tender him for a total savings of $1.925M. 

A bargain in 2008 and 2009, Aybar hit .253/.329/.413 with double digit homers in each of those two seasons while playing no fewer than three positions. This year's been a different story, however, as he's fallen off to .235/.309/.348 with just five homers while spending the most of his time as a designated hitter against lefthanded pitching despite hitting just .252/.299/.390 off southpaws. Aybar's strikeout rate has risen for the third straight year as well.

Tampa is facing a payroll reduction next season, so parting ways with the increasingly unproductive Aybar could be one way to cut costs. That said, it's time to vote. Click here to tell us if you think the Rays will non-tender Aybar after the season, and here to see the results. 

Rays To Stay In-House At Second Base

Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times reports that the Rays will replace Akinori Iwamura's production from within the organization. Rays executive VP Andrew Friedman said the club will rely on Ben Zobrist, Willy Aybar and Reid Brignac to fill the void created by Iwamura's injury. Even with Jason Bartlett injured, the Rays aren't expected to add anyone, in part because they cannot add payroll. It would have been a surprise to see the Rays give something up for a middle infielder when they're getting production from the players they already have.

Plus, as ESPN.com's Buster Olney points out, the Rays need pitching help more than anything else.

Rays, Willy Aybar Agree To Multiyear Deal

3:01pm: Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times has the financial details of Aybar’s deal.

9:23am: According to SI.com’s Jon Heyman, the Rays and infielder Willy Aybar avoided arbitration and agreed to a multiyear deal worth $2.6MM plus incentives.

Aybar’s likely deal has been known for a while now; it should be two years plus an option.  I believe Aybar is a Super Two player, in which case the deal would not buy up all four of his arb years.

Rays Close To Two-Year Deal With Willy Aybar

MONDAY, 10:39am: MLB.com’s Bill Chastain says Aybar is pleased about his new deal with the Rays and it will be announced soon.

TUESDAY, 5:44pm: The Tampa Tribune’s Marc Lancaster confirms Topkin’s report and has gathered a quote from VP of Baseball Operations, Andrew Friedman: 

It’s premature to comment on it, but I think it’s safe to say that we’re very close.

3:10pm: According to Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times, the Rays are closing in on a two-year deal with an option for infielder Willy Aybar.  Aybar is a Super Two player (he has four arbitration years).  He’ll be eligible for free agency after the 2012 season.

Arb Hearings Postponed For Aybar, Santana

According to the AP, arbitration hearings for Willy Aybar and Ervin Santana were postponed until next week.  11 other players also have pending hearings.