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Rays beat Ryan Yarbrough in arbitration hearing

The lefty will get the $2.3 million salary the team offered rather than the $3.1 million he sought in first year of eligibility.
The Rays' Ryan Yarbrough delivers a pitch during the first inning against the Dodgers in Game 4 of the World Series on Oct. 24, 2020 in Arlington, Texas.
The Rays' Ryan Yarbrough delivers a pitch during the first inning against the Dodgers in Game 4 of the World Series on Oct. 24, 2020 in Arlington, Texas. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Feb. 13

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays prevailed in an arbitration hearing against pitcher Ryan Yarbrough, who will get the $2.3 million salary the team offered rather than the $3.1 million he sought.

Yarbrough was 1-4, 3.56 in 11 games last year, making nine starts and pitching twice in relief, allowing 54 hits, 12 walks and a majors-most seven hit batters while striking out 44 over 55⅔ innings. The 29-year-old left-hander served a short stint on the injured list due to groin tightness.

The case was argued Tuesday over Zoom and a three-member panel issued the ruling Saturday.

Yarbrough’s case, in his first year of eligibility, was considered interesting beyond the industrywide issue of valuing statistics from the coronavirus-shortened 2020 season and applying them in an arbitration process typically steeped in comparisons.

That was due to interpreting Yarbrough’s role pitching bulk innings behind an opener, which he did frequently during his first two seasons — though only twice last year — in the strategy the Rays made common in 2018.

Yarbrough’s side could argue he should be valued as a starter; the Rays could make a case he should be compared to other multiple-inning relievers. He was to make $578,500 last year before salaries were prorated.

The ruling was the first in the Rays’ favor after six losses, including last week to first baseman Ji-Man Choi, who got a $2.45 million salary rather than the $1.85 million the team had offered. Either was a nice raise from the $850,000 he was slated to make in 2020 before salaries were prorated for the abbreviated season.

The cases went to hearings when the Rays and the players’ representatives couldn’t agree on a deal by the arbitration filing deadline. The team has a policy of cutting off talks at that point and advancing to the hearing.

The strategy usually works in that almost all cases are settled, but Choi’s case was the sixth straight time the Rays lost in going to a hearing, dating back to a 2016 session with pitcher Drew Smyly. Overall in their soon-to-be 24-season history, the Rays are 7-6 in arbitration hearings.

This year was only the second time the team went to hearings with two players. It also happened in 2018, when it lost to infielder Adeiny Hechavarria and pitcher Jake Odorizzi.