Rays probably won't be tearing down roster

Rays owner Stuart Sternberg, left, and Manager Joe Maddon, right, laugh as Cecil Fielder takes the lineup to the umpires before the Rays spring training game against the Twins at Charlotte Sports Park Monday in Port Charlotte, FL. JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times
Rays owner Stuart Sternberg, left, and Manager Joe Maddon, right, laugh as Cecil Fielder takes the lineup to the umpires before the Rays spring training game against the Twins at Charlotte Sports Park Monday in Port Charlotte, FL.JAMES BORCHUCK | Times
Published September 14 2014

Principal owner Stuart Sternberg saying last week, in response to a question, that the payroll is headed down for 2015 is hardly a surprise after the Rays jumped from $62 million to a franchise-record $80 million, which he termed "an enormous aberration."

And it was curious that he brought up how they'd done better in the past with smaller payrolls and made a passing reference to how they made a "couple of big signings" — presumably RHP Grant Balfour, maybe 1B James Loney? — but the net result "still comes down" to total team performance.

The primary question — and what Sternberg didn't, and likely won't, say — is how much of a payroll reduction the Rays are planning. (And keep in mind that attendance will be down or about the same as 2013, so there was no return that way on their investment.)

With the nine players signed for next year, including Balfour and Loney at $7 million each, and the expected return of Ben Zobrist on a reasonable $7.5 million option, they have about $53 million committed.

And they have nine players eligible for arbitration, and the requisite raises.

Of the five previously eligible for arbitration who combined to make about $10 million this season, a few are potential trade candidates, such as OF Matt Joyce and RHP Jeremy Hellickson, which could save around $10 million, while others will get paid, such as LHP Jake McGee, who was a $1.45 million bargain this year.

Then the Rays have four players eligible for arbitration for the first time: pitchers Alex Cobb and Drew Smyly, OF Desmond Jennings and INF Logan Forsythe, who could make another $10 million total.

Also, manager Joe Maddon is in line for a new deal, and likely a decent raise, this winter. His contract expires after the 2015 season.

Yet the sense around the team is that there won't be a massive payroll cut, and an ensuing step back from contention, and that they expect to be quite competitive next season with the bulk of the group returning.

Despite the disappointment of this season, Sternberg did point out that the Rays made only one deal — albeit trading ace David Price — at the July deadline. And, he said, "I am certain we're not going to overreact in the offseason."

So what will that add up to? It sounds for now as if the cutback won't be major and will be the product of trades and tough choices.

Rays rumblings

Radio guy Dave Wills is in talks for a new contract; partner Andy Freed has two more years on his latest deal. … Zobrist is interested in being part of the MLB All-Star team that will tour Japan in November. … SS prospect Willy Adames was the No. 4 overall pick in the draft of players eligible for the Dominican winter league draft, with Licey holding his rights if he plays. … Esteemed author Hal Bodley will sign copies of his excellent new book, How Baseball Explains America, at the Trop's Ted Williams museum Wednesday at 5:30, then again next weekend. … A GQ magazine list of the "25 biggest sleazebags in sports" includes Rays/Triple-A Durham reliever Josh Lueke at No. 25. … Informative in-depth piece about LHP Drew Smyly's improvement with the Rays is on fangraphs.com. … Baseball America reports the Rays recently signed 16-year-old Venezuelan left-hander Francisco Sanchez, who throws 94 mph, for $675,000.

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