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Tampa Bay Rays motivated by chance for a bargain contract in long-term deal with Matt Moore

There is clearly risk for both the Rays and LHP Matt Moore in their new deal.

The better question is for whom is it larger.

Moore definitely took some with a contract that guarantees $14 million over five years and, with options and escalators, could be worth $40 million over eight, covering his arbitration and first two free-agent years.

He could short himself by millions — maybe even $20 million — over the term. But that would only be because he did so well — think Tim Lincecum as a comp — and would still get to the free-agent market in 2020. "If he does that he's probably a $150 million player as a 30-year-old," agent Matt Sosnick said. "So the risk to reward to us seemed pretty reasonable."

Also to be considered: Moore wasn't much of a bonus baby, signing for only $115,000, and comes from a working family. So the guaranteed money is significant, and life-changing.

While the instant analysis is that the Rays got a great deal, given projections of stardom and team-friendly salaries that top out at $10 million in 2019, they actually are taking the bigger gamble.

Though the payoff can be grand, an arm injury, a change in Moore's personality, even an errant line drive or random off-field accident could cost them millions they can't afford to spare. But the market is forcing them to do these types of deals sooner — no pitcher had ever gotten this much with so little time in the majors — which means even more exposure.

"The point is that it's important to feel comfortable with the risk on the day that you do it," executive VP Andrew Friedman said. "We get the fact that there's a lot of different ways this can go."

So who's next?

The scale is different for LHP David Price, who heads into the first of four arbitration years and could be in line for $70 million-plus over a six-year deal. It seems too late for CF B.J. Upton and too soon for OF Matt Joyce. RHP Jeremy Hellickson and OF Desmond Jennings fit, but they are repped by Scott Boras, who doesn't usually do such deals.

He said he'd talk to them to gauge potential interest but said of the Rays: "I'm not sure our formulas have lined up."

GREAT SCOTT: Boras' job is to get teams to spend, so last week he poked a little fun, pronouncing that the Rays "have lots of money" in part because he saw "the owner's plane" at the Aspen, Colo., airport.

"Beautiful plane. The biggest one there, I might add," Boras said. "It had a big Rays logo, so I took interest, threw a snowball or two at it." (Alas, the plane didn't belong to principal owner Stuart Sternberg, but Andrew Cader, a team investor who puts a Rays decal on when he uses it.)

Boras also noted how some teams shop in the steak aisle, and others have moved over to fruits and nuts. As for the Rays? "The Wise (potato chips) aisle, and Snickers."

RAYS RUMBLINGS: Midnight Monday is the deadline to tender contracts; arbitration eligible LHP J.P. Howell and RHP Andy Sonnanstine are potential candidates to not get them. … The Rays are now longshots to sign free-agent OF/DH Josh Willingham. … There could be interest in each of the Angels' potential odd men out — 1B Mark Trumbo, 1B/DH Kendrys Morales (coming off injury) and DH/OF Bobby Abreu (if they eat most of his $9 million salary). … Scout Brad Mathews, who did the background work on Price among others, left the Rays to be a pro scout for the Blue Jays. … Among familiar faces at the winter meetings: former Devil Rays Robert Fick and Jason Romano, both working for agents.

Tampa Bay Rays motivated by chance for a bargain contract in long-term deal with Matt Moore 12/10/11 [Last modified: Saturday, December 10, 2011 10:55pm]
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