Sunday, January 21, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Service time top factor when Rays set salaries for 0-3 players

PORT CHARLOTTE

RHP Brad Boxberger led the American League in saves last year and will get paid $2,200 less this year. RHP Jake Odorizzi ranked eighth in the league with a 3.35 ERA and saw his pay cut $1,300. CF Kevin Kiermaier won Gold and Platinum gloves for defensive excellence and got a raise of $600.

The three key Rays were left in this position by their own doing, deciding, with their agents' advice, to turn down what they considered meager raises as essentially a matter of principle. Any decision to leave money on the table could certainly be questioned.

And though they don't quite yet have the service time necessary to cash in on the millions flying around the game, these young men making more than half a million dollars a year for playing a game certainly don't deserve your sympathy.

But the net result provides an interesting peek into the process of how the Rays handle their 0-3 players — ones with less than the three (or occasional two-plus) years of service time to qualify for arbitration.

Basically, the Rays have a structured plan that is based "primarily on service time" with what baseball operations president Matt Silverman said is "a slight margin to accommodate performance." In other words, the salary is determined more by how many days the player is in the majors than what he does there.

Some teams are more liberal, some similar, some even more hard line. Players in the 0-3 category have no leverage to negotiate, so their only option is to reject the offer. The team then "renews" their contract at a salary they decide on, which this year was $5,000 less than the Rays offered. That would seem like a penalty, or you could take the team view that the original offer was a bonus these players rejected while 15 others took their slight increases. (RHP Steve Geltz, for example, got a raise of $10,400 to $519,300.)

So Boxberger, who earned $521,400 last season, will make $519,200. The Scott Boras client said he understands "it's the business side of it" and that "there's nothing against the team or anything."

"I don't really know the whole inner workings of the formula and all that," Boxberger said, "but I do know other teams reward differently for performance on the field, which is what this game is based off of."

Odorizzi, represented by Jason Wood, passed on what would have been a $3,700 raise. He, too, said there would be no lingering hard feelings. "That's the business aspect of it; everybody goes through it," Odorizzi said. "It's not about the money. I don't play for the money."

Kiermaier, whose agent is Larry Reynolds, didn't want to say much about ending up with a $514,400 salary: "All I know is I'm very happy with what's going on."

It's interesting in that all three are the kind of players the Rays would, or maybe already had, approached about long-term deals, but nothing has happened. (Odorizzi was in talks this past offseason.) Also of note reflecting the Rays' scale: players acquired from the Mariners and Yankees got no raises, indicating the Rays pay at a lower scale.

For Boxberger and Odorizzi, this is the last year of being in this position, as they gain the hammer of arbitration eligibility. Kiermaier has one more year.

RAYS RUMBLINGS: In addition to going to Cuba for a spring game, the Rays were in discussions about making a regular-season trip to London, but it didn't work out. … After RHP Chris Archer pointed out publicly that two young prospects didn't report early enough, he got a text from mentor David Price with the suggestion that he could have done so privately. … Archer was 11th overall, and the top pitcher, in Jonah Keri's SI.com ranking (based on age, performance, contract) of players with the most trade value. … Friday's Rays-Red Sox crowd of 9,789 in Fort Myers was larger than for nine regular-season games at the Trop last season. … Former Rays manager and Jesuit High product Lou Piniella is back in baseball, working as a part-time consultant for the Reds. … Don't the new Yankees seem like the old Rays, skipping a workout last week to bring in a leadership guru to run team-building exercises?

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