Rays decline options on Wheeler, Aybar; but could keep both
UPDATE, 7:08: Wheeler said he would be open to re-joining the Rays. “I was a little surprised, but at the same time I wasn’t because I understand where they’re coming from since they’re going to cut salary. It's never easy. I absolutely enjoyed by time with the Tampa Bay Rays. I've already talked to Andrew (Friedman, executive VP). We talked about keeping the lines of communication open, and I could still be a Ray next year. The way I look at it, I have 30 teams to talk to.’’
DEVELOPING: The Rays declined their options on reliever Dan Wheeler ($4-million) and INF Willy Aybar ($2.2M).
Wheeler got a $1-million buyout and becomes a free agent, the sixth of the relievers who pitched significant innings for the Rays last season.
Aybar, who got a $275,00 buyout, remains under team control as he is eligible for arbitration.
The Rays also selected the contract of INF Elliot Johnson and put him back on their 40-man roster. He was taken off the roster at the end of spring training since he was out of options and wasn't going to make the team, then cleared waivers and had a strong season at Triple-A Durham.
With the Wheeler decision, here are the Rays 11 current free agents:
OF Rocco Baldelli
RHP Grant Balfour
RHP Joaquin Benoit
LHP Randy Choate
OF Carl Crawford
OF Brad Hawpe
OF Gabe Kapler
1B Carlos Pena
RHP Chad Qualls
RHP Rafael Soriano
RHP Dan Wheeler