ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays decided — for now, anyway — to bet on a bounce-back season from Brad Miller and eliminated some bullpen options in ditching Chase Whitley and Xavier Cedeno by Friday’s contract-tender deadline.
In keeping Miller, who is projected to make $4.4 million next year, the Rays clearly felt better about the second baseman rebounding from a poor, injury-shortened 2017 followup to his 2016 30-homer breakout season than cutting him loose and getting nothing in return, though they could trade him later.
"We know the extent of his physical ability, and we’ve seen what he can do and what he’s capable of at the plate," senior vice president Chaim Bloom said. "That’s not something that we’re projecting on necessarily. It’s something that we’ve seen him do in the past and believe that he has the potential to do again. … We wouldn’t have tendered him (Friday) if we didn’t think that he had the ability to rebound."
In nontendering Cedeno, coming off an injury-marred season, and waiving Whitley, who was claimed by the Braves, a day after trading Brad Boxberger, the Rays made clear they plan to rely even more heavily on young arms to stock their bullpen.
Bloom said neither Boxberger, who was projected to make $1.9 million, nor Whitley ($1 million), looked to have key roles in the Rays’ 2018 plans. The Cedeno decision seemed more to do with his health/availability after missing most of 2017 with forearm tightness, though Bloom said they will "stay engaged" and could bring him back, presumably on a minor-league deal.
The three departures saved the Rays a projected $4.3 million in their effort to trim payroll, though Bloom said they looked at the moves more as "individual baseball decisions."
The Rays also tendered their eight other arbitration-eligible players, shown with mlbtraderrumors.com salary projections: starter Jake Odorizzi ($6.5 million), outfielder/DH Corey Dickerson ($6.4 million), closer Alex Colome ($5.5 million), shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria ($5 million), outfielder Steven Souza Jr. ($3.6 million), reliever Dan Jennings ($2.5 million), catcher Jesus Sucre ($1.3 million) and infielder Matt Duffy ($900,000).