UPDATE, 12:45: The Rays started the process Thursday in dealing RHP Brad Boxberger to Arizona for RHP Curtis Taylor, a Class A pitcher who was sidelined last season with a shoulder issue but is expected to be ready to start the season. More here on the deal.
DEVELOPING: With Friday's 8 p.m. deadline to tender contracts, the Rays, as usual, have plenty to talk about, especially with 12 arbitration eligible players.
While deals on some of the bigger-name, higher-paid players are more likely later in the off-season, it seems the more immediate decisions involve INF Brad Miller and the group of relievers of Brad Boxberger, Xavier Cedeno, Dan Jennings and Chase Whitley.
That being said, expect the Rays to tender contracts, with the potential to make later deals, to the other seven arb-eligibles (with their projected salaries via mlbtraderumors.com):
RHP Jake Odorizzi ($6.5M), OF/DH Corey Dickerson ($6.4M), RHP Alex Colome ($5.5M), SS Adeiny Hechavarria ($5M), OF Steven Souza Jr. ($3.6M), C Jesus Sucre ($1.3M), INF Matt Duffy ($900K).
(Of that group Hechavarria is probably the only one with cause for pause, but his defensive play and offensive improvements make him too valuable, to the Rays or someone else, to let walk.)
With Miller projected to make $4.4-million, the Rays have to decide whether they think it's a good bet he'll rediscover his 2016 30-homer form or struggle again like he did in 2017, and whether the core muscle repair surgery he had in October provides reason to think his dropoff was injury related.
Also, whether they want to take that gamble or if they are confident they can convince some other team to and get something back for him rather than just let him become a free agent as a non-tender and get nothing.
At this point, keeping him is probably more likely.
Though none of the relievers project to make that much money, the Rays are looking to trim salary so trading or dropping one or a couple would net some small savings.
Jennings, acquired at the trade deadline from the White Sox, is projected to make the most at $2.5M. Boxberger, after a second injury shorted season, is projected to make $1.9M; Cedeno, who missed much of the season with injury, $1.4M; Whitley, who split time between Triple-A and long relief, $1M.
Between now and Friday, the Rays could look to trade any of those players (possibly for international bonus pool money to bolster their bid for Japanese free-agent Shohei Ohtani) or cut deals to a set salary, saving the team from possibly paying more in the arbitration process and the player from being dropped from the roster and tossed into free agency.
Of the bigger names, Odorizzi, Colome and Dickerson are already the subject of trade speculation. The Cardinals are among the interested teams in both pitchers.