SUNDAY: Snell’s renewal is official, Topkin tweets. He commented on the team’s decision (via Topkin), saying: “The Rays have the right under the collective bargaining agreement to renew me at or near the league-minimum salary. They also have the ability to to more adequately compensate me, as other organizations have done with players who have similar achievements to mine. The Rays chose the former. I will have no further comment and look forward to competing with my teammates and field staff in our quest to win the World Series in 2019.”
FRIDAY: The Rays intend to stick to their pre-arb salary formula with regard to lefty Blake Snell, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports. It is anticipated that the team will renew Snell’s contract at the price of just $573,700.
Plenty of young major leaguers are playing at similar rates of pay, to be sure. The minimum salary sits at $555K and most organizations stay close to it, typically handing out increases measured in the thousands or tens of thousands based upon service time and certain performance standards.
The collective bargaining agreement allows teams to pay pre-arb players whatever it likes, so long as they earn at that floor level. Snell, though, needn’t agree to the salary he’s allotted. And indications are he won’t, preferring instead to make a symbolic protest.
The southpaw says it’s “disappointing” that he wasn’t rewarded with a bigger increase after wrapping up a stellar season in which he walked off with the American League Cy Young Award. He was anything but vitriolic toward the Tampa Bay organization, but left no doubt that he’ll also be taking a businesslike approach in his future dealings with the club.
Given his immense achievement, it’s not surprising that Snell would feel a bit slighted. It’s true, as Topkin notes, that renewals aren’t terribly uncommon for players who’ve turned in big seasons. But the examples he cites also highlight just how stingy the Rays’ formula is. Josh Hader declined to agree to the $687,600 salary that the Brewers’ own spreadsheets spit out. Mookie Betts wouldn’t put his signature on a $950K payday after a season in which he placed second in the MVP voting. The same thing happened last spring with Carlos Correa, who was renewed at a cool $1MM.
It is understandable enough that the Rays wish to maintain discipline, as Topkin explains, and are wary of allowing “an exception” to make it impossible to “draw, and hold, the line” in future situations. Of course, the team set its formula by fiat and can modify it at will to incorporate whatever inputs it wishes. No doubt the data-savvy organization could imagine a way to reward truly exemplary performance without opening the door to otherwise unwanted expenses. A well-crafted incentive structure might even make good financial sense, though the Rays have surely thought that through already.
With some prior extension chatter having failed to gain traction, Topkin writes, the expectation now is that the sides will go year to year in the arbitration process. Snell will hope to follow Betts in making his employer pay up through his three arb years:
“Hopefully this pushes me. Arbitration will be the business side, and that’s what I’ll tell them. I think fair is fair. It all comes around in the end anyway. At the end of the day, you get what you put in. I’ll be motivated.”
If you’re interested in learning more about the use of formulas in setting pre-arb salaries, check out this old but good piece from Zach Links on the subject.