Friday night, the Rays, along with every other team in baseball, faced the deadline to tender contracts to all arbitration eligible players. If a player is not tendered a contract, they immediately become a free agent and can sign with anyone. David Price, Matt Joyce, Jeff Niemann, Sean Rodriguez, Burke Badenhop, Sam Fuld and Ryan Roberts were tendered contracts, and Ben Francisco was the team's only non-tender and is now on the market. All arbitration estimates are courtesy of MLBTradeRumors.
Price, just recently named the American League Cy Young winner, is entering his second year of arbitration eligibility after earning $4.35 million in 2012. He's coming off the best season of what's been a great career to date, posting career bests with a 3.12 xFIP, 24.5 K% and 7.1 BB%, all while leading the AL in ERA. He was also the franchise's first 20 game winner, and while most readers agree that doesn't measure a player's value, milestones in the more simpler statistics are known to be used in arbitration decisions. He's projected to receive $9.5 million this off-season which would be a record for a pitcher in his second year of arbitration eligibility. Last year, Price and the Rays agreed to his contract outside of arbitration.
Joyce had a down season compared to his 2011 All-Star season, but it was likely hampered by an oblique injury that caused him to miss 23 games. After posting a .899 first half OPS, it plummeted to .635 in the second half to finish with a .769 OPS, a career low. His 1.8 fWAR was also a career low since he became a regular for the Rays in 2010 after returning from an elbow injury. With a a nice approach and power production against right handed pitchers, he's projected to earn $2.6 million in his first year of arbitration eligibility which would be more than a 500% increase from his 2011 salary of $499,500.
Niemann was having the best season of his career after a broken fibula limited him to one start after May 14th. In eight starts, two of which were limited due to the fibula injury and a shoulder injury in September, Niemann had a career best 3.65 xFIP in 38 innings. His 21.8 K% was a career high, and his 7.7 BB% wasn't too far off a career best. While the 29 year old may not have lived up to expectations when he was taken 4th overall in 2004, he has gotten progressively better since becoming a full time big league starter in 2009. He's projected to earn $3.1 million this off-season, a small bump up after he lost arbitration last year and was paid $2.75 million.
Rodriguez is coming off his worst season since joining the Rays. Not only was his performance on offense and defense down from 2011, he was optioned to AAA Durham in August, and he missed two weeks after punching a locker after a minor league game. His walk and strikeout rates didn't deviate much from his 2011 season, but his ISO was down 20 points as he only slugged .326. Previously a solid platoon option against left handed pitchers, Rodriguez's OPS against lefties was down 96 points from his career mark of .755. He's projected to earn $1.2 million in his first year of arbitration eligibility.
An unheralded off-season acquisition, Badenhop proved to be a solid middle relief option for the Rays, successfully inducing double plays when necessary and standing inherited runners. He had a career best 4.6 BB%, largely thanks to being able to throw his sinker for more strikes compared to previous seasons. He was especially effective against right handed batters, whom he limited to a .610 OPS compared to .844 for lefties. This will be his third off-season eligible for arbitration, and he's projected to earn $1.6 million. He has avoided arbitration in the previous two off-seasons.
Fuld only picked up 107 plate appearances in 2012 after missing over half the season due to wrist surgery. His offensive output was down a bit compared to his 2011 season that made him a fan favorite, and even his effectiveness against right handed batters wasn't as good. Maybe this could be attributed to his wrist injury, and to his credit, he was still able to provide quality corner outfield defense and baserunning, two good characteristics for the 25th player on a roster. He's projected to earn $509,000 in his first year of arbitration eligibility.
A week before the trade deadline, the Rays acquired Roberts from Arizona for Tyler Bortnick in an attempt to stay afloat in the infield until Evan Longoria returned. His .285 wOBA was below league average at second base, but it was still better than some other backup infielders that passed through St. Petersburg in 2012. While he'll probably never match his career 2011 season when he was a 3.5 fWAR player, he still provided quality defense at second and third base. Roberts and the Diamondbacks agreed to a one year, $2.0125 million contract to avoid arbitration last year, and he's projected to earn $3 million in his second year of eligibility.
Ben Francisco was acquired from Houston on August 31st, and he picked up 64 plate appearances for the Rays in what ended up as his worst ML season to date. Not coincidentally, this was the first season he played in the majors while Andy Sonnanstine didn't. His corner outfield defense isn't very good, and he doesn't add anything on the bases, so his value is almost tied entirely to his bat against left handed pitchers. His OPS against lefties this year was only .626 though, 87 points lower than it was against righties. He was projected to earn $1.7 million in his third year of arbitration eligibility.
Per Cot's Contracts, the Rays already had $33,090,475 committed to eight players. Including the arbitration estimates for the seven players that were tendered contracts, they'll have $54,599,475 committed to 15 players. That leaves those who haven't accumulated three years of service time yet that will have their contracts automatically renewed, usually not too far from the league minimum. Those players include Jeremy Hellickson, Desmond Jennings, Jake McGee, Alex Cobb and Chris Archer.