ST. PETERSBURG — As the Rays decided to tender contracts to catcher Rene Rivera and their eight other arbitration-eligible players Wednesday, they also added competition behind the plate in acquiring Hank Conger from the Astros.
Conger, 27, has played parts of six seasons in the majors and set career highs in 2015 with 11 homers and 33 RBIs while hitting .229. The Rays got Conger for cash considerations and will have to make room on the 40-man roster today.
The decisions on eight of the arbitration eligibles were straightforward, but the Rays worked up until the midnight deadline deciding on Rivera, who had a dismal offensive season and twice lost the starting job. Still, he is looking at a raise from his $1.2 million salary to around $1.5 million.
The other eight players the Rays did tender, listed with their estimated 2016 salaries, are starters Alex Cobb ($4 million), Drew Smyly ($4 million) and Erasmo Ramirez ($2.8 million); outfielders Brandon Guyer ($1.3 million) and Desmond Jennings ($3.5 million); reliever Jake McGee ($5 million); second baseman and team MVP Logan Forsythe ($3.5 million); and newly acquired DH/first baseman/outfielder Logan Morrison ($4.1 million).
Rivera, 32, hit only .178 with five homers and 26 RBIs and compiled just a .489 on-base plus slugging percentage, lowest of any major-leaguer with 300 plate appearances. He was better behind the plate, throwing out 23 of 63 attempted basestealers for a 36.5 percentage that ranked third best in the majors.
Though Cobb missed all of 2015 due to an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery, he likely will get the same $4 million salary in 2016, aiming to be back with the Rays by August. Jennings is looking at a slight raise from his $3.1 million salary after playing only 28 games due to a left knee injury that required surgery.
If they are looking for power elsewhere, other nontenders included Pedro Alvarez (Pirates) and Chris Carter (Astros).