ST. PETERSBURG — Now, the Rays have to make decisions.
By midnight tonight, the Rays have to decide which of their eight remaining ranked free agents they are willing to offer arbitration: Type A's Grant Balfour, Carl Crawford, Rafael Soriano and Dan Wheeler; and Type B's Randy Choate, Brad Hawpe, Carlos Peña and Chad Qualls. (Since Joaquin Benoit, a Type B, already signed with Detroit, they'll obviously offer.)
If the Rays offer and the player declines, they get draft pick compensation if he signs elsewhere, especially relevant with the Type A's since each nets two picks, one from the signing team and a compensation pick.
With Crawford and Soriano, who are headed elsewhere, it's obvious they will offer. Balfour is a tougher call, though doing so also could be strategic in limiting the market as a team might be reluctant to give up a first-round pick, perhaps increasing the Rays' chances of re-signing him.
But the Rays also run the risk of the player accepting arbitration by the Nov. 30 deadline, which puts him back on the roster and likely for a higher salary.
For example: Wheeler made $3.5 million last season, and the Rays have already declined a $4 million option and paid a $1 million buyout. So they would have to be confident he will decline and sign elsewhere or get less than $3 million in arbitration to return. Of the Type B's, who net only a compensation pick, the biggest risk would be Peña, who made $10.125 million in 2010 while hitting .196.
NOTE: Nick Paparesta, an assistant since 2008, left to be head athletic trainer in Oakland.