While the deadline to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players was at midnight, the Rays remained busy early Thursday morning. According to Mark Topkin, Tampa Bay acquired veteran catcher Hank Conger from Houston for cash and will make a corresponding roster move to fit him on the 40-man roster later Thursday.
Conger, 27, spent 2015 with Houston after playing parts of five seasons with the Los Angeles Angels. In 73 games, he enjoyed a career season at the plate, batting .229 with a .311 on-base percentage, .448 slugging percentage and a career-best 11 home runs.
A switch-hitter, he hammered righties to the tune of .279/.353/.538 in 116 plate appearances in 2015, and his career OPS against righties (.685) is 70 points higher than lefties (.685).
Behind the plate, Conger has a reputation as a good pitch-framer, but struggled throwing potential basestealers out, nailing only one out of 43 attempts.
Conger is now in a crowded mix for the Rays at catcher. Rene Rivera was one of the nine arbitration-eligible players tended a contract Wednesday, and 27-year-old Curt Casali bashed 10 home runs in 38 games in 2015.
In his first season with the Rays, the 32-year-old Rivera batted just .178 with a .489 OPS but threw out 37 percent of attempted basestealers and also enjoys a fair reputation for pitch framing.
For his career, Conger owns a .673 OPS and has thrown out 19 percent of attempted basestealers.
Conger made just over $1 million in 2015, and MLB Trade Rumors projects his contract for 2016 will be worth $1.8 million. He will be eligible for free agency following the 2017 season.
In addition to Rivera, the eight other players tendered contracts were first baseman Logan Morrison, pitchers Jake McGee, Alex Cobb, Drew Smyly and , infielder Logan Forsythe and outfielders Desmond Jennings and Brandon Guyer.
Morrison, 28, was acquired from Seattle in November. He batted .225 with a .685 OPS, but the left-handed hitter posted a .767 OPS against right-handed pitching. The five-year veteran will be a free agent following the 2016 season.
McGee was limited to 37 1/3 innings in 2015 due to elbow and knee injuries. When healthy, the 29-year-old lefty remained one of the league's most effective relievers, posting a 2.41 ERA and totaling 48 strikeouts.
Cobb, 28, missed all of 2015 after undergoing Tommy John surgery and will likely miss much of 2016 as he rehabilitates the injury.
The 26-year-old Smyly was also limited by injuries in 2015. The lefty pitched through a partial labrum tear in his left shoulder and pitched to a 3.11 ERA in 66 2/3 innings in the Rays' rotation.
Ramirez, 25, was acquired from Seattle just before the season started and was effective once he became a fixture in the rotation in May and finished with a 3.75 ERA in 163 1/3 innings.
Forsythe settled in as Tampa Bay's everyday second baseman and enjoyed a breakout season. The 28-year-old set numerous career highs, including games (153), home runs (17), average (.281), OBP (.359), SLG (.444) and OPS (.804)
The 29-year-old Jennings again battled injuries in 2015. Knee problems limited him to just 28 games, and he batted .268 with just five steals in eight attempts.
Guyer, 29, played in a career-high 128 games, batting .265 with a .771 OPS to go along with eight home runs and 10 steals. He was hit by a league-leading 24 pitches.
Catcher J.P. Arencibia, outfielder Daniel Nava and pitcher Brandon Gomes were also eligible for arbitration. Arencibia was released, and Gomes and Nava each elected free agency after being outrighted from the 40-man roster.