3 years for Wheeler; C.C. option picked up, Rocco declined
The Rays did as expected Tuesday in picking up OF Carl Crawford's 2009 option for $8.25-million and declining OF Rocco Baldelli's $6-million option by giving him a $4-million buyout and making him a free agent after the season, but what was unexpected was a three-year, $10.5-million contract for reliever Dan Wheeler with an option for 2011.
The Rays had signed Wheeler to a $2.875-million one-year contract before the season to avoid arbitration, but the new three-year deal replaces that. Wheeler will get $2.8-million this season, $3.2-million in 2009, $3.5-million in 2010 and either a $1-million buyout or a $4-million salary in 2011. He will also make a donation of at least $150,000 to team charitable foundation.
"We've worked hard to try to address our bullpen situation and we feel like Dan will be an important part of our bullpen going forward and getting important outs late in games for us,'' executive VP Andrew Friedman said. "I think he'd be the first to say last year was not a typical Dan Wheeler season and all parties agree this year and future years will be much better and he'll be an important part of our bullpen going forward.''
Wheeler, 30, started his career with the Rays and after stints with the Mets and Astros came back to Tampa Bay last July in a trade from Houston, going 0-5 with a 5.76 ERA in 25 games. He is targeted primarily for seventh-inning setup work this season, but does have 25 major-league saves. In 327 games, he is 12-26 with a 4.09 ERA.
In a statement released by the team, Crawford, 26, thanked principal owner Stuart Sternberg and indicated he would be interested in staying beyond 2010, for which the Rays hold another option.
“I'm very happy,'' Crawford said. "I would like to thank the Rays organization and Stu Sternberg for believing in me. I'm grateful for the opportunity for this day. I'm looking forward to being here for a long time because I think we're at the start of something great going on here. I want to do well for them and represent the team in a classy manner.”
Baldelli's playing status is uncertain as he remains sidelined by a rare disorder that leaves him fatigued. Friedman said the Rays would hope to keep him in the organization. "The most important thing right now is to address Rocco's health situation and once we're able to move beyond that we'll do everything in our power to keep him in a Rays uniform,'' Friedman said.
Declining the 2009 option saved the Rays about $4-million, since they not only would have had to pay him a $6-million salary but would have been on the hook for another $2-million buyout for future options.