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Here’s where the Rays stand coming out of lockout

Rays Tales | It seems a while ago, but the offseason started busy with signings of Corey Kluber and Brooks Raley.
Former Yankees pitcher Corey Kluber says he is healthy and eager to pitch for the Rays.
Former Yankees pitcher Corey Kluber says he is healthy and eager to pitch for the Rays. [ FRANK FRANKLIN II | Associated Press (2021) ]
Published Mar. 12|Updated Mar. 12

PORT CHARLOTTE — So, where were we?

When the offseason was halted by the lockout on Dec. 2, the Rays felt pretty good about what they had done.

Venturing into the free-agent market, they landed Corey Kluber, the two-time Cy Young award winner who can provide leadership to the rotation, and Brooks Raley, the versatile lefty who can handle assorted key roles in the bullpen.

In breaking out the checkbook, they secured the future of shortstop Wander Franco for up to 12 years, signing him to a team-record extension worth a guaranteed $182 million, and — with 2033 options and incentives — potentially up to $223 million.

And in shuffling their roster, most notably by trading Joey Wendle (to Miami), they opened up playing time for promising prospects such as Taylor Walls and/or Vidal Brujan, and potentially others.

Also, they picked up catcher Mike Zunino’s $7 million option and signed first baseman Ji-Man Choi to a $3.2 million, one-year deal, with a majors most-matching 13 other arbitration eligibles projected to make around $32 million, per mlbtraderumors.com.

But as they headed toward Sunday’s official opening of a condensed spring training, they still have more work to do.

Sorting out a crowded outfield seems a high priority, with plans to at least discuss trading Kevin Kiermaier or Austin Meadows.

Either should be replaceable, given the Rays have Randy Arozarena, Manuel Margot and Brett Phillips returning, prospect Josh Lowe ready to graduate from Triple-A, and the potential to slide Brandon Lowe and Brujan out there when needed.

The Rays locked up shortstop Wander Franco for the long haul during the offseason.
The Rays locked up shortstop Wander Franco for the long haul during the offseason. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]

Trading Kiermaier, 31, would save money now, as he is set to make a team-high $12 million this season, with a $2.5 million buyout on a $13 million option for 2023.

Dealing Meadows, 26, would be more about future savings and a better return; he is projected to make $4.3 million this year and considerably more in his next two years of arbitration eligibility. The addition of the DH to the National League should enhance the market for him.

Another scenario could be for the Rays to trade Margot, who is projected to make $5 million via arbitration in his last year before free agency.

Or if they got really bold, trade Brandon Lowe, who makes $4 million this season, then $5.25 million in 2023 and $8.75 million in 2024, with a $10.5 million option in 2025 and $11.5 million option in 2026.

The Rays also are looking to add to their roster, specifically a right-handed hitter and preferably one who can play first base and — further on the wish list — has options remaining.

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That could come from free agency if they found a bargain (ex-Ray Tommy Pham has said he is open to a return and to learn first) or a trade for a younger, lesser-known type, like, say, Yandy Diaz when they got him.

They will have some flexibility to work with, as three pitchers — Nick Anderson, Yonny Chirinos and Tyler Glasnow — likely are headed to the 60-day injured list, opening three spots on the 40-man roster.

And because they are the Rays, there is always the potential surprise, such as their pre-lockout interest in slugging first baseman Freddie Freeman, albeit only cursory and on a short-term deal if he didn’t want to wait for something else.

Here is a look at the Rays’ offseason so far:

Signed as free agents

Brooks Raley said on a Zoom call from the Rays clubhouse he was excited about the opportunity to improve his game.
Brooks Raley said on a Zoom call from the Rays clubhouse he was excited about the opportunity to improve his game. [ Times ]

• RHP Corey Kluber ($8M, 1 year, plus incentives)

• LHP Brooks Raley ($10M, 2 years, plus option and incentives)

Re-signed

The Rays re-signed catcher Mike Zunino to a one-year deal.
The Rays re-signed catcher Mike Zunino to a one-year deal. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]

• 1B Ji-Man Choi ($3.2M, one year)

• SS Wander Franco ($182M, 11 years, plus option and incentives)

• C Mike Zunino ($7M, one year)

Added to 40-man roster

• INF Jonathan Aranda

• RHP Calvin Faucher

• C Rene Pinto

• INF/C Ford Proctor

• RHP Tommy Romero

Signed to minor-league deals

• RHP Seth Blair

• LHP Zack Erwin

• RHP David Hess (re-signed)

• C Joe Hudson

• RHP Dusten Knight

• RHP Chris Mazza (re-signed)

• RHP David McKay

Traded

The Rays dealt infielder Joey Wendle ahead of spring training.
The Rays dealt infielder Joey Wendle ahead of spring training. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]

• INF Mike Brosseau, to Brewers for minor-league RHP Evan Reifert

• RHP Louis Head, to Marlins for player to be named

• RHP Brent Honeywell, to A’s for cash

• INF/OF Jordan Luplow, to D-backs for minor-league INF Ronny Simon

• INF Joey Wendle, to Marlins for minor-league OF Kameron Misner

Claimed off waivers

• LHP Ryan Sherriff, by Phillies

Became free agents

After last season's injury-plagued return to Tampa Bay, pitcher Chris Archer is again a free agent.
After last season's injury-plagued return to Tampa Bay, pitcher Chris Archer is again a free agent. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]

• RHP Chris Archer

• RHP Shawn Armstrong

• LHP Adam Conley

• DH Nelson Cruz

• RHP Oliver Drake

• LHP Dietrich Enns (signed with Seibu/Japan)

• RHP Tommy Hunter

• RHP DJ Johnson

• RHP Chris Mazza (re-signed with Rays)

• RHP Collin McHugh

• LHP Cody Reed

• RHP David Robertson

• RHP Chaz Roe

• RHP Michael Wacha (signed with Red Sox)

Spring roster

Pitcher Shane Baz, who saw time in the majors last year, is on the spring roster.
Pitcher Shane Baz, who saw time in the majors last year, is on the spring roster. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]

(through Friday)

x-not on 40-man roster

Pitchers (31)

70 Nick Anderson

11 Shane Baz

68 Jalen Beeks, lh

86 x-Seth Blair

84 JT Chargois

72 Yonny Chirinos

73 x-Adrian De Horta

71 x-Zack Erwin, lh

29 Pete Fairbanks

58 Calvin Faucher

34 J.P. Feyereisen

19 Josh Fleming, lh

20 Tyler Glasnow

60 x-David Hess

36 Andrew Kittredge

28 Corey Kluber

76 x-Dusten Knight

22 x-Chris Mazza

18 Shane McClanahan, lh

49 Brendan McKay, lh

64 x-David McKay

61 Luis Patino

38 Colin Poche, lh

30 Brooks Raley, lh

57 Drew Rasmussen

52 Tommy Romero

67 x-Aaron Slegers

59 Jeffrey Springs, lh

81 Ryan Thompson

37 Matt Wisler

48 Ryan Yarbrough, lh

Catchers (5)

Francisco Mejia connects for a two-run RBI single against the Marlins last year.
Francisco Mejia connects for a two-run RBI single against the Marlins last year. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]

63 x-Joe Hudson

21 Francisco Mejia

50 Rene Pinto

65 Ford Proctor

10 Mike Zunino

Infielders (7)

Ji-Man Choi, right, celebrates his sixth-inning solo home run against the Red Sox with Brett Phillips during Game 2 of the American League Division Series.
Ji-Man Choi, right, celebrates his sixth-inning solo home run against the Red Sox with Brett Phillips during Game 2 of the American League Division Series. [ CHRIS O'MEARA | Associated Press ]

62 Jonathan Aranda

7 Vidal Brujan

26 Ji-Man Choi

2 Yandy Diaz

5 Wander Franco

8 Brandon Lowe

6 Taylor Walls

Outfielders (6)

Randy Arozarena pounds his chest after stealing home plate during the seventh inning in Game 1 of the ALDS.
Randy Arozarena pounds his chest after stealing home plate during the seventh inning in Game 1 of the ALDS. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]

56 Randy Arozarena

39 Kevin Kiermaier

15 Josh Lowe

13 Manuel Margot

17 Austin Meadows

35 Brett Phillips

Rays rumblings

Two items in the new labor agreement that would seem to be most troublesome to the Rays: Limits on a player being optioned only five times during a season and carrying only 13 pitchers on the 26-man roster. ... Of some future help is a change in the scheduling format for fewer series against division opponents (currently six) and games against all 29 other teams. ... Two things that would make sense given the sudden start and abbreviated spring: Allowing teams to play fewer than nine innings in the early exhibitions and carrying a couple extra players to start the season. ... Former Ray Sean Rodriguez, who retired after the 2020 season, joined the Phillies as a Clearwater-based minor-league instructor. Two other ex-Rays, Erik Kratz and Kevin Stocker, joined the Phillies rotation of radio analysts. ... The Rays were tied for 16th in The Athletic’s ranking of franchises since the 1998 expansion, using a system weighted heavily toward World Series championships. . ... Current Rays special assistant Denard Span, who retired after the 2018 season at age 34, seems the kind of player who could have benefited from the NL having the DH previously.

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