The Rays Tank: Rays avoid arbitration with Joyce, Roberts, Niemann, Fuld

Joy R. Absalon-US PRESSWIRE

A quartet of Rays signed new one-year deals Friday, avoiding arbitration.

The Tampa Bay Rays reached one-year contracts, Friday, avoiding arbitration with a quartet of players, OF Matt Joyce, IF Ryan Roberts, OF Sam Fuld, and RHP Jeff Neimann. The Rays went into the off-season with six potential arbitration cases and combined with earlier deals to David Price($10MM) and Sean Rodriguez($1MM), managed to avoid ever having to go to the debate table.

Matt Joyce received $2.45MM, a hefty chunk of change compared to his league minimum salary during 2012. The first time arb eligible outfielder has shown flashes of great potential but has yet to put together all the pieces for an entire season.

Jeff Neimann will return and earn $3MM while hoping to reclaim his position near the top of the Rays rotation after a disappointing, injury-plagued 2012. Durability has always been the question with Neimann and a healthy Big Nyquill would be a huge boost to a staff that has already lost its workhorse, James Shields.

Ryan Roberts is an interesting case. The infielder was tendered a contract before Yunel Escobar was acquired from the Marlins and at his new $2.95MM salary, he could potentially be dangled. The Rays already have a glut of middle IF utility types with Sean Rodriguez, Elliott Johnson and Reid Brignac on the 40-man. While depth is always at a premium, the salary (and cheaper, younger options like Rodriguez) may cause the Rays to move the Tatman should another team come knocking for MIF help.

Finally, Sam Fuld received a minimal raise to $725 thousand. The part time player and 4th(5th) outfielder should have a spot on the '13 club in a bench role, especially with question marks still surrounding Guyers shoulder and Myers' service time.

The deals put the Rays 2013 projected payroll somewhere in the $51-$55MM range, depending on whether you include David Price's $4MM deferment. The team is still actively looking for a bat to fill the designated hitter role, and Jayson Stark reported today that the club may be looking for a center fielder, even going so far as suggesting Tampa Bay as a possible landing spot for still-unsigned Michael Bourn. Doubtful, Stark....

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