Rays’ right-hander Pete Fairbanks was removed from today’s game due to right lat tightness, per Rays broadcaster Neil Solondz. Manager Kevin Cash spoke with reporters, including Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, saying that more information will be forthcoming but that Fairbanks is “going to miss some time.” Topkin relays that Fairbanks will undergo an MRI on Monday.
It’s been a fairly quiet offseason for the Rays so far, at least in terms of bringing in new faces, as their biggest move of the past few months has been to extend Wander Franco. In terms of new additions, it’s been Corey Kluber, Brooks Raley and Jason Adam. Of course, the team wasn’t desperate for upgrades, having won the AL East in each of the past two seasons. Fairbanks has somewhat quietly emerged as a dominant part of the club’s pitching staff over those two seasons. Since the start of the 2020 campaign, he’s thrown 69 1/3 innings with a 3.25 ERA, 31% strikeout rate and 11.4% walk rate. If Fairbanks is headed for the IL, the club would certainly miss that level of performance. They’d be well-equipped to weather his absence, given the many talented arms they have in their relief corps, such as Andrew Kittredge, J.P. Feyereisen and JT Chargois. However, given that the AL East is expected to be a heated four-team standoff, every inch will count in the next six months.
Elsewhere from around the division…
- The Blue Jays are set to begin the season with an Opening Day payroll around $171MM, per Jason Martinez of Roster Resource. That would be a new franchise record, going just beyond the $163MM of 2017, per Cot’s Baseball Contracts. But it’s possible that the spending could be pushed even further, according to team president/CEO Mark Shapiro. “Those wins from like 90 to 93 are usually the most important ones and you usually have to outpace revenue at some point,” Shapiro told Scott Mitchell of TSN. “When they start to outpace our budget, then it’s up to me to go (to ownership) and propose and say, ‘Here’s what we feel another addition beyond our budget could mean.’ We never feel limited by that.” The Jays somehow missed the playoffs last year despite winning 91 games, as that was only good enough for fourth place in the stacked AL East. The club has been aggressive in making moves for the upcoming campaign, adding free agents such as Kevin Gausman and Yusei Kikuchi, as well as trading for Matt Chapman and Raimel Tapia. Despite looking good on paper, Shapiro knows that they will inevitably need resources to react to events as the season unfolds. “We’re going to face something that none of us are thinking about right now.”
- Christian Arroyo got his first taste of outfield action on the spring today, manning right field for the Red Sox. Manager Alex Cora was apparently pleased, per Chris Cotillo of MassLive. Arroyo has played all four infield positions in his career but never on the grass. However, Boston’s recent signing of Trevor Story has reduced his likelihood of seeing any significant playing time on the dirt, forcing him to attempt to expand his defensive repertoire. Enrique Hernandez and Alex Verdugo figure to be fixtures in the outfield mix, leaving one spot up for grabs. J.D. Martinez will still be the club’s primary designated hitter but will apparently see more time in the field this year. Jackie Bradley Jr. is also around, though he’s coming off an awful campaign with Milwaukee, posting a wRC+ of just 35, the lowest in the league among hitters with at least 200 plate appearances. Jarren Duran was thought to be in the mix, despite a lackluster showing in his MLB debut last year, but the club announced today that he’s been optioned to Triple-A. Taking all that into consideration, there’s a path for Arroyo to earn himself some playing time, should he adapt well to the defensive switch. In 57 games with the Red Sox last year, he hit .262/.324/.445 for a wRC+ of 106.
- Josh Donaldson is under consideration to be the Yankees’ leadoff hitter, according to manager Aaron Boone. Newsday’s Erik Boland relays word from the skipper, who had this to say about the idea: “Guy that controls the strike zone like he does, the ability to get on, power, great hitter…yeah, he’s definitely someone I would consider.” Boone is certainly correct about Donaldson’s on-base abilities, as the slugger has posted an above-average walk rate for each of the past nine seasons. While he might not fit the classic model of leadoff hitter, Donaldson would certainly fit the recent trend of opting for on-base ability over speed. It wouldn’t be the first time the experiment was tried, as he was pencilled into the top spot of the lineup seven times by the Jays in 2015, the year he went on to be crowned AL MVP. In those seven games, he hit .276/.313/.586 over 32 plate appearances. That amounted to a wRC+ of 137, not too far below his season-long number of 154, suggesting Donaldson didn’t seem to be bothered by the switch.