As discussed yesterday, the Rays had to make decisions on arbitration eligible players by tonight. The announcement was pretty straight forward, mostly falling in line with what Steve speculated yesterday.
Unsurprisingly, the Rays offered arbitration to Type A free agent's Carl Crawford, Rafael Soriano, and Grant Balfour. The group of Type B free agents who were offered arbitration include Joaquin Benoit, Randy Choate, Chad Qualls, and Brad Hawpe. They declined offers to Dan Wheeler (Type A) and Carlos Pena (B).
We all know Crawford and Soriano are going to decline, so the Rays will receive two draft picks per player to compensate for those losses. Balfour is a more interesting case. I'm sure the Rays wouldn't be upset in the least if some team wanted to give up draft picks to sign him, but it's likely that his Type A status will scare off many suitors. If Balfour accepts the offer the Rays would owe him a reasonable sum of ~$2 million next season. Either scenario seems to work out well for the team.
Since Benoit has already signed with Detroit, being a Type B free agent, the Rays will receive a supplemental draft pick for his services. Randy Choate has drawn interest for numerous teams, so offering him arbitration was a no-brainer. He would be welcomed back into the bullpen - he's effective and cheap - but if someone wants to give the Rays a draft pick for him...well, it's been a pleasure, Randy. The offers to Qualls and Hawpe is where this gets interesting. There has to of been some type of deal worked out with each of them where they agreed to decline arbitration once offered. There is no way the Rays would risk the chance of paying Qualls $4million and Hawpe $7 million if they accepted . I would love to know how the Rays persuaded two players of average ability to turn down that type of guaranteed money, but that's something Andrew Friedman will likely keep under his hat.
Declining to offer arbitration Wheeler was as obvious a decision as the Rays had this off season. He would have gladly accepted the $4 million pay day. With the bullpen possibly being depleted I hope the Rays can work out a deal to bring Wheeler back at a reduced salary. I wasn't sure what the Rays would do with Pena. At first glance it seems like declining to offer him arbitration is the obvious move - there's no way they pay him the $10 million he'd earn. But as Tommy Rancel pointed out to me, the Rays could gamble and hope that Scott Boras thinks he could get a multi-year deal out of a team now that Aubrey Huff and Victor Martinez are off the market. Ultimately they chose to play it safe, and for a team as financially strapped as they are I can't blame them.
The Rays had the most arbitration eligible players in all of baseball and stand to gain up to 10 draft picks from their departures. I'm excited to see what R.J. Harrison and company can do with them.