The Rays are among the teams that have reached out to the representatives for Jacob deGrom, reports Andy Martino of SNY. They join the Rangers, Yankees and incumbent Mets as clubs known to have some amount of interest, although there are surely a number of other teams in the bidding.
Needless to say, Tampa Bay represents a long shot in the race for any top free agent. The Rays consistently run payrolls in the bottom five to ten, and it’s impossible to envision them winning any all-out bidding war against either New York franchise or a Texas club that has rapidly pushed its payroll upwards and seems determined to land impact pitching this winter. Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic unsurprisingly writes that Tampa Bay officials aren’t bullish on their chances of signing deGrom.
Still, there’s no harm for the Rays in touching base with the four-time All-Star’s camp. deGrom is a Florida native and a Stetson product, and there’s been some speculation he could welcome an opportunity to return to the Southeast. To be clear, the pitcher himself hasn’t publicly aired any geographic preferences. The Rays also offer a more clearly competitive roster than the Rangers, although it’s debatable whether they’re better positioned to contend for a World Series than the Yankees, Mets or other teams that could enter the bidding like the Dodgers and Giants.
The Rays opened the 2022 season with a payroll just south of $84MM, per Cot’s Baseball Contracts. Roster Resource estimates their 2023 commitments around $68MM at present, so there should be a bit of room for president of baseball operations Erik Neander and his staff to augment the roster. Adding a player like deGrom would require blowing this year’s franchise-record spending level out of the water, though, with MLBTR predicting the two-time Cy Young winner to land a record $45MM average annual value over a three-year term.
The projected $135MM guarantee would be the second-largest expenditure in franchise history, training only the $182MM extension signed by shortstop Wander Franco last offseason. That was spread over 11 years, while a deal for a 34-year-old ace would involve much higher salaries over a shorter term. Tampa Bay was reportedly willing to offer Freddie Freeman a deal in the $150MM range last winter, but even that would’ve been dispersed across six to seven seasons. Tyler Glasnow, who signed an extension in August, is slated for a $25MM guarantee in 2024 that’ll mark the largest single-season salary the team has paid.