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Tampa Bay Rays Agree to Terms with Matt Garza ($3.35M), J.P. Howell ($1.8M), and Jason Bartlett ($4.0M); Prepare for Arbitration with B.J. Upton

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Per the Rays.

Garza's deal? Shocker.  Howell won't be one of the three highest paid relievers in the pen and Bartlett gets a moderate raise.

The bigger points:

  • Everyone wants to see Garza and Howell with the Rays beyond the next few seasons. The problem is - this is groundbreaking - they are pitchers and they are still under cost control. Barring an options-laden deal, sometimes it simply doesn't make sense to extend these guys. Garza is under team control for another four seasons and Howell for another three. Pitchers are weird beings who are more prone to attrition than their hitting brethren. Velocity peaks at an early age and while I don't think Garza is a candidate for explosion, you never know, and that's why a five-or-six-year guaranteed deal makes little sense in light of going year-to-year.
  • And yes, I'd put $500 towards a Howell life-time extension. Dude provides great material.
  • Bartlett wants a long-term deal with the Rays. So do I. Doesn't make either likely. I'm sure some will be appalled that the Rays had nothing to do with this and haven't reached out to Ben Zobrist about a long-term deal, but why? Bartlett is 30-years-old and under control through the end of the 2011 season. Even the most ardent supports of his offensive outbreak have to admit his bread and butter is defense, and that's not a skill that improves with age.  Is he worth $4M? Absolutely. He's worth more than that, actually, but he's not worth a long-term commitment. Not now. Not with a career year lacking forward sustainability and not with Reid Brignac near.
  • The B.J. Upton situation is no surprise. Larry Reynolds has always spoken about how MLB's salary set-up doesn't fit for high-end young players like Upton. He's right about that, these guys make far fewer dollars early in their career than they are worth. That sucks for the players and the agents, but it's a great feast for teams willing to take advantage of it. The problem for Reynolds is that his client excels at things the arbitrators won't understand. Hell, most of the fans don't understand that defense is just as valuable as offense. Unless the Rays are drastically low-balling Upton or Reynolds is a disciplined linguist, the odds of the Rays losing this case appear slim at best. Upton's agent doing his job isn't going to stop anyone from making the Virginia native out as a villain. But then again, it's never stopped them before either. 
  • Oh, and as for payroll, with the ~9M added, we're up to ~67M.