PORT CHARLOTTE — The Rays decided there was nothing else they could do, that even winning a Cy Young Award wasn’t reason enough to make an exception to their salary structure.
And they made that official Sunday, renewing Blake Snell’s contract for $573,700, thus giving him only a $15,500 raise — or arguably just $5,500, as $10,000 is built into an increase in the major-league minimum — as a reward for his historic season.
And Snell made clear to put the blame on the Rays since they could have done more.
“The Rays have the right under the collective bargaining agreement to renew me at or near the league-minimum salary,’’ he said in statement to the Tampa Bay Times from Adam Karon and Tripper Johnson, his agents at Sosnick, Cobbe & Karon.
“They also have the ability to more adequately compensate me, as other organizations have done with players who have similar achievements to mine. The Rays chose the former.
“I will have no further comment and look forward to competing with my teammates and field staff in our quest to win the World Series in 2019.’’
The Rays similarly renewed infielder Joey Wendle, who had an impressive rookie season, and Ryne Stanek, the reliever who emerged as the primary opener in their innovative pitching strategy, while agreeing to deals with their other pre-arbitration players.
Wendle, who excelled after being picked off Oakland’s discard pile and getting his first opportunity for extended time in the majors, got a raise of $23,500, to $570,400. Stanek, who started 29 games in a ground-breaking role and relieved in 30 others, got a raise of $17,800, to $564,200.
Both, for what it’s worth, got bigger bumps than Snell.
The Rays use a system based primarily on service time, with a slight margin for performance, in setting the salaries for players who don’t have the three years (or, in some cases, close) necessary to qualify for arbitration, and the accompanying riches. (Snell has 2 years, 72 days in the majors and will be eligible for arbitration after this season, Wendle 1.088, Stanek 1.038.)
They typically pay those pre-arb players only slightly above the minimum, which goes up from $545,000 to $555,000 this year, knowing if they can’t work out a deal, they can unilaterally impose the salary with a renewal.
So while some teams, as Snell said, reward players for certain accomplishments, the Rays held fast, deciding there was no benefit in creating precedent or potentially courting goodwill in future negotiations. Team officials declined to talk about the decision, as they do with most contract matters.
When players take the renewal, it’s often just a matter of standing on principle. Especially this year, as the Rays made one accommodation for Snell in dropping the usual $5,000 penalty for being renewed. So Stanek and Wendle can thank him for that. (Or maybe they wouldn’t have taken the renewal if they were going to get docked the five grand.)
Even with three key players having contract issues, manager Kevin Cash said he didn’t expect any carryover into the clubhouse.
“Not concerned about it whatsoever,’’ he said. “Being around these guys, the way they have carried themselves for the past year or whatever, it’s part of the game, it’s part of the business. They’ll handle it very well.’’
Stanek’s case is interesting because of his role as an opener, starting games but only used to get three-six outs.
Critics have claimed one of the Rays’ motives in employing the strategy was to suppress the salaries of their rising young pitchers, as they wouldn’t have the traditional stats (holds and saves in Stanek’s case as a high-end reliever, starts for those working bulk innings behind openers) upon which compensation is based.
Most of the chatter has been toward the future, when Stanek or others are eligible for arbitration.
But could this have been the first example of a disagreement, at least between Dan Lozano’s MVP Sports Group and the Rays, over the value of his contributions?
“I have no idea, honestly; it may or may not be,’’ Stanek said. “That’s not something I’ve really weighed into the whole decision. … I don’t know; it’s just their system and how they do things.’’
Otherwise, Stanek said, he just wants to get past the contract issue and focus on playing. Much the same as Wendle, as down to earth and appreciative as big-leaguers come.
“Until probably a week ago it was something I really didn’t have a ton of knowledge about,’’ Wendle said. “We sat down with our representation and felt like it was the best move at the time. It’s not something I want to think too much about or focus on at this point. … Things like that are why we have people to help us out, agents and stuff like that. So I’m going to take the advice of what they feel like is best.’’
Snell, who told the Times last week that he found the Rays policy “disappointing” and wanted to be treated “fair,’’ knows what would have been best. A little bigger reward for pitching’s biggest prize.
Contact Marc Topkin at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.