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Arbitration, nontender decisions to come this week for Tampa Bay Rays

There's another week of decisions ahead that could shape the Rays roster.

By Tuesday, the seven free agents offered arbitration have to say whether they are accepting or declining.

Historically, most say no, allowing the player to keep negotiating with all teams and making his old team eligible for draft pick compensation if he signs elsewhere. Expect that from Type A's OF Carl Crawford and RHP Rafael Soriano, plus Type B's OF/DH Brad Hawpe and RHP Chad Qualls, and RHP Joaquin Benoit, who signed with Detroit.

And also from LHP Randy Choate, who — as a Type B doesn't cost the signing team a draft pick — could find a lucrative market.

But there are usually a few players who accept — three last year (including Soriano with Atlanta, prompting his trade to the Rays), two the year before — which makes them signed to a one-year deal, their salary to be determined.

There is some thought that RHP Grant Balfour, who made $2.05 million last season, might be willing. That's because he wants to return, but also in acknowledgement that as a Type A (as classified by the Elias Sports Bureau rankings based on two years of performance), the additional assessment of a top pick from the signing team might limit his appeal on the market.

By Thursday, the Rays have to decide whether to nontender any of their nine arbitration-eligible players, making them free agents, rather than pay them what they'd have to under a system that almost always results in raises.

CF B.J. Upton and RHP Matt Garza are obviously back, and SS Jason Bartlett should be, even if they're planning to give his job to Reid Brignac, just based on Bartlett's potential trade value. Expect LHP J.P. Howell, coming off shoulder surgery, to return, and versatile RHP Andy Sonnanstine as well.

Conversely, it's obvious that C Dioner Navarro is done, either nontendered or dumped in a minor trade, based on his play for his $2.1 million pay and the way he deserted the team when left off the playoff roster.

That leaves up for discussion RHP Lance Cormier, whom they may be more likely to keep given the relief situation, and INF/OF Willy Aybar and 1B/DH Dan Johnson, calls complicated by the uncertainty around free agent 1B Carlos Peña.

MINOR MATTERS: Among players signed to minor-league contracts with spring invites are 1B/3B Russ Canzler, a 24-year-old from Joe Maddon's hometown of Hazleton, Pa., who hit .287 with 21 HRs for the Cubs' Double-A team, and RHP Cory Wade, 27, a key reliever for the Dodgers in 2008 who had shoulder problems that led to March 2010 surgery but made it back to Triple A in July.

RAYS RUMBLINGS: Carl Crawford's agents went high-tech, sending interested teams iPads preloaded with an impressive video touting the free agent's strengths, showing highlights and offering testimonials. … The AL MVP voting said something about the Rays organization, with four players they drafted in the top 10 — No. 1 Josh Hamilton, No. 6 Evan Longoria, No. 7 Crawford, No. 10 Delmon Young. … LHP Alex Torres, despite a rough finale, had a tremendous season (4-1, 1.91, 30 K, 8 BB in 28.1 IP) in Venezuela for Aguilas, where one of his coaches was Wilson Alvarez — yes, that Wilson Alvarez, the former Ray. Alvarez told journalist Augusto Cárdenas he thought Torres, 22, was ready for the majors, at least in a long relief role. … According to Sports Business Daily, the Rays' 5.9 local TV ratings were fifth highest in the majors. … By signing Victor Martinez, the Tigers seem out of the Crawford race, potentially leaving it to the Angels, Red Sox and which team doesn't get Cliff Lee between the Yankees and Rangers.

Arbitration, nontender decisions to come this week for Tampa Bay Rays 11/27/10 [Last modified: Saturday, November 27, 2010 10:00pm]

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