1:40pm: The Rays have officially announced the signing of Wagner.
9:48am: The Rays and right-hander Neil Wagner are in agreement on a unique two-year minor league deal that contains an invitation to 2016 Spring Training, reports Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet (Twitter link).
The 30-year-old Wagner, a client of Munsey Sports Management, underwent Tommy John surgery this August and is expected to miss most, if not all of the 2015 campaign. That injury is the reason behind the deal’s rather uncharacteristic nature, as Wagner will spend all of 2015 rehabbing with the Rays before attempting to break camp with the club in 2016.
Wagner has spent the past two seasons with the Blue Jays, and though he posted an 8.10 ERA in 10 innings this season, he pitched to a 3.79 ERA with 7.8 K/9, 3.1 BB/9 and a 44.1 percent ground-ball rate in 38 frames with the Jays in 2013. He was designated for assignment and eventually released by Toronto last month.
The way in which Wagner was compensated for his solid 2013 season was the subject of ire from agent Jim Munsey, who explained back in April how his client came to earn the league minimum ($500K) this year despite the fact that his initial contract with Toronto was a $525K minor league deal. Toronto’s pre-arbitration pay scale is based on service time, and the salary they offered was just $506,250. Munsey refused the salary in protest, at which point the Blue Jays renewed his contract for just $500K, as was their right. (MLBTR’s Zach Links looked at pre-arb pay scales in depth earlier this year.)
The contract with Wagner is somewhat reminiscent of Juan Carlos Oviedo’s deal with Tampa. Oviedo (who formerly pitched as Leo Nunez) inked a minor league deal prior to the 2013 season that contained a $2MM club option for the 2014 campaign as he recovered from Tommy John. Oviedo’s contract was a bit more significant given his previous success closing games for the Marlins from 2010-12 (when pitching as Nunez).