Tampa Bay's payroll is likely to be smaller next year than it was last season, but that's shouldn't be a lofty ask of the front office. MLB Trade Rumors released their arbitration projections for 2016, and the Rays will continue to have several affordable pieces to work with.
The new set of Rays players eligible for salary arbitration include a few new looks, swapping out David DeJesus's guaranteed contract for Daniel Nava's rookie contract, while cutting Ernesto Frieri and trading away Kevin Jepsen, lowering the 2016 outlook:
Jake McGee (4.127) - $4.7MM
Logan Forsythe (4.113) - $3.3MM
Desmond Jennings (4.101) - $3.1MM
Rene Rivera (4.082) - $1.6MM
Alex Cobb (4.061) - $4.0MM
J.P. Arencibia (4.052) - $1.4MM
Daniel Nava (4.045) - $1.9MM
Drew Smyly (3.154) - $3.9MM
Brandon Gomes (3.082) - $900K
Brandon Guyer (3.066) - $1.3MM
Erasmo Ramirez (2.158) - $2.8MM
In these projections a couple players actually take a step down. Alex Cobb's projection drops him $500K in salay to a cool $4M, while Desmond Jenning's projected salary is $100K less than what he made. Of course, both of those players were injured last season.
The biggest jump in projected payroll on offense is Forsythe, who more than doubles the $1.2M made in his first year of arbitration in 2015. Becoming the best hitter on the team will do that for you.
There's a far bigger jump on the mound, however, as Erasmo Ramirez enters salary arbitration for the first time. He pushed his service time tally to 2 years, 158 days on the roster in 2015, which will surely trigger Super 2 status and allow him to enter salary arbitration a year early. MLBTR anticipates this year's cut off to be 2 years, 130 days.
Jake McGee spent a good portion of 2015 on the Disabled List but still sees a salary increase in his third of four rounds of arbitration, and that's despite "losing" his closer role. Boxberger, meanwhile, enters his final year of making the league minimum.
If anything, the above should show us what the Rays stand to gain in potential off-season trades. Forsythe, Jennings, and Rivera will all be top candidates to be dealt and combine for $8M in salary.
That's not to say the Rays haven't already saved a bunch of money. Here's Opening Day's roster compared to 2016's current projected roster:
|C1||Rene Rivera||1.3||Rene Rivera||1.6|
|C2||Bobby Wilson||0.5||J.P. Arencibia||1.4|
|1B||James Loney||8.7||James Loney||9.7|
|2B||Logan Forsythe||1.2||Logan Forsythe||3.3|
|SS||Asdrubal Cabrera||8.0||Tim Beckham||0.5|
|3B||Evan Longoria||11.0||Evan Longoria||11.5|
|LF||Desmond Jennings||3.2||Desmond Jennings||3.1|
|CF||Kevin Kiermaier||0.5||Kevin Kiermaier||0.5|
|RF||Steven Souza||0.5||Steven Souza||0.5|
|DH||John Jaso||3.3||Richie Shaffer||0.5|
|IF||Tim Beckham||0.5||Nick Franklin||0.5|
|OF||David DeJesus||5.0||Daniel Nava||1.9|
|OF||Brandon Guyer||0.5||Brandon Guyer||1.3|
|SP1||Chris Archer||1.2||Chris Archer||2.9|
|SP2||Nathan Karns||0.5||Drew Smyly||3.9|
|SP3||Jake Odorizzi||0.5||Jake Odorizzi||0.5|
|SP4||Erasmo Ramirez||0.5||Erasmo Ramirez||2.8|
|SP5||Matt Andriese||0.5||Matt Moore||5.0|
|RP||Brad Boxberger||0.5||Brad Boxberger||0.5|
|RP||Kevin Jepsen||2.6||Jake McGee||4.7|
|RP||Grant Balfour||7.0||Nathan Karns||0.5|
|RP||Ernesto Frieri||0.8||Alex Colome||0.5|
|RP||Steve Geltz||0.5||Steve Geltz||0.5|
|RP||Kirby Yates||0.5||Brandon Gomes||0.9|
|RP||Jeff Beliveau||0.5||Xavier Cedeno||0.5|
|DL||Alex Cobb||4.5||Alex Cobb||4.0|
|DL||Drew Smyly||3.0||Burch Smith||0.5|
|DL||Matt Moore||3.0||Jeff Beliveau||0.5|
|DL||Burch Smith||0.5||Grayson Garvin||0.5|
It seems a bit disingenuous to include the disabled list in it's entirety to kick off the season, as McGee, Colome, and Franklin would recover by May. In speaking of the Opening Day payroll in 2015, it's best to just call it a cool $74M, which is still $9M more than 2016's projection.
Of course, several things could change heading into next season. The Rays could sign a better shortstop, which could cost anywhere from $8M-$12M. The team could deal away the likes of James Loney, Rene Rivera, and/or the aforementioned candidates in salary arbitration, which in total could save around $20M. The team could even sign a DH or execute other trades.
As things stand, the Rays are in line for a cheaper roster in 2016, but the above does show that if they'd like things to change, there will be a few more pieces to remove first.