ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays seem to treat relievers as interchangeable and sometimes disposable parts, rarely making multi-year commitments.
But they obviously see something special in lefty Brooks Raley, agreeing to terms on a two-year deal with a 2024 option worth a guaranteed $10 million, pending a physical.
Raley, 33, spent last season with the Astros, having been acquired in August 2020 from the Reds, who signed him as a minor-league free agent following a successful five-year stint in Korea as a starter with the Lotte Giants.
Raley has elite stuff, spinning his slow curveball and slider (average velocity around 80 mph) to maximize horizontal movement and get weak contact or swing-and-miss.
He showed that at times last year with the Astros, ranking among the league’s best with an exit velocity of 83 mph, a 21.5 percent hard hit rate and a 31.7 percent strikeout rate, while going 2-3, 4.78 in 58 games, striking out 65 over 45 innings.
He was used heavily — perhaps too heavily at times against right-handers — as his stat splits show. He held lefties to a .195 average (15 for 77, two extra base hits) and .483 OPS while righties hit .259 (28-for-108, 10 extra base hits) with a .796 OPS.
Raley made his big-league debut in 2012 with the Cubs, but after limited action that year and the next — and spending 2014 at Triple-A with the Angels and Twins — Raley headed to Korea. In five years as a starter for Lotte, he went 48-53, 4.13.
The deal with Raley, assuming he passes his physical, will be announced before Wednesday night’s expiration of MLB’s labor agreement, as a lockout and transactions freeze are expected to follow.
The Rays have one open spot on their 40-man roster and need to add Raley and starter Corey Kluber, who agreed to a one-year, $8 million contract, pending a physical that was done Monday. A trade or a release is possible.
Teams have until 8 p.m. Tuesday to tender contracts, which typically means deciding whether to drop any of the players eligible for arbitration, of which the Rays have 15. That includes (with projected salaries by mlbtraderumors.com): pitchers Tyler Glasnow ($5.8 million), Ryan Yarbrough ($4.4M), Matt Wisler ($1.8M), Andrew Kittredge ($1.6M), Yonny Chirinos ($1.2M), Jeffrey Springs ($1M), Nick Anderson ($900,000), Jalen Beeks ($600,000); outfielders Manuel Margot ($5M), Austin Meadows ($4.3M), Brett Phillips ($1.2M); infielders Joey Wendle ($4M), Ji-Man Choi ($3.5M), Yandy Diaz ($2.7M); and catcher Francisco Mejia ($1.5M).
Glasnow’s situation is tricky since he will be out all of 2022 while recovering from Tommy John surgery, then make about the same in 2023 when his workload will be monitored closely.
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⋅ Shortstop Wander Franco’s contract includes escalator clauses that increase his salary from $25 million to $28 million during each of the 2028-2033 seasons if he finishes in the top five in American League MVP voting the previous year. He gets a $3 million payment if traded prior to April 2, 2029, and $2 million if on or after.
⋅ Rays manager Kevin Cash, always self-deprecating about his own career, continues to marvel over Franco’s talent and success at age 20 that led to his record contract. He also poked a little fun at Franco’s light blue suit choice. “It’s a lot of money, but it’s deserving, it’s warranted,” Cash said. “He’s really special, but I cannot put myself in his shoes — and certainly his suit.”
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