ST. PETERSBURG — Reliever Chaz Roe has worked in more games than anyone for the Rays since being acquired during the 2017 season, but he may have pitched his way out of their price range.
Roe will be the most interesting subject of conversation heading to Monday’s 8 p.m. deadline to tender contracts given a projected $2.2 million arbitration-driven salary and the potential for a reduced, or at least altered, role in 2020 with new rules governing reliever usage.
The Rays have five other arbitration-eligible players: Outfielders Tommy Pham (a projected $8.6 million salary) and Guillermo Heredia ($1.1 million), starter Tyler Glasnow ($1.9 million), reliever Oliver Drake ($1.1 million) and infielder Daniel Robertson ($1.1 million).
The Rays previously addressed three others arbitration eligibles, signing catcher Mike Zunino, who was projected to make $4.9 million, to a one-year, $4.5 million deal with a 2021 option, and designating for assignment infielders Matty Duffy ($2.9 million) and Jesus Aguilar ($2.5 million).
Since joining the Rays in September 2017, Roe has been used primarily against right-handed hitters (325 of 432 batters in 2018-19) and often situationally, where he faced only one or two batters (40 times in 132 outings).
But under rules set to be implemented next season, pitchers must face at least three batters or pitch to the end of the half inning, a move designed to reduce pitching changes. That could put more of a premium on relievers better skilled at pitching to both lefty and righty hitters.
Also, Roe was somewhat inconsistent in 2019, posting a 1-3, 4.06 record in 71 games, allowing 49 hits and 31 walks in 51 innings. In 2018, he was 1-3, 3.58 with 35 hits and 16 walks in 50⅓ innings.
If the Rays decide they don’t want to pay Roe, 33, they could either opt to not tender him a contract and thus allow him to become a free agent, or they could trade him and get some return rather than letting him walk. Tendering Roe a contract is not a full commitment either, as they can pay just a fraction of the contract if he is released before opening day, either one-sixth or one fourth depending when.
Heredia’s status with the team is also in question, and that could be as much to have a free roster spot than the financial savings.
Though credited for his upbeat personality and energy, Heredia hit only .225 with five homers, 20 RBIs and a .668 OPS. He is a lefty hitter and a good enough defender that he made 35 starts in centerfield, though Brian O’Grady, acquired last week from Cincinnati, could challenge for that reserve outfield spot on what now will be 26-man rosters.
Dropping Heredia wouldn’t yield much cost savings since the MLB minimum will be $563,500, but the open roster spot could come in handy, especially heading to next week’s winter meetings.
Though Pham’s contract will be hefty, the Rays are certain to tender him a contract, though they could entertain trade offers later in the offseason.
With Pham, the Rays will have more than $46 million committed to six players for next season. Pitcher Charlie Morton is signed for $15 million, centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier $10 million, starter Blake Snell $7 million, Zunino $4.5 million and infielder Brandon Lowe $1.5 million.
Pham, despite playing with several injuries, was one of the Rays’ most productive players last season, hitting .273 with 21 homers, 68 RBIs, 25 steals and a .818 OPS.
Glasnow, one of the Rays top starters, is sure to be tendered. Drake, who filled a key role in the bullpen in pitching to lefties and righties, and Robertson, who can play multiple positions, also seem set.
Contact Marc Topkin at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.