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Rays acquire Conger from Astros for cash

Tampa Bay tenders contracts to 9 arbitration-eligible players

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays acquired catcher Hank Conger from the Astros for cash considerations Wednesday night. In addition, they tendered contracts to their nine aribitration-eligible players prior to Major League Baseball's non-tender deadline.

To make room for Conger on the 40-man roster, Joey Butler was designated for assignment on Thursday.

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Arbitration-eligible players needed to be tendered a contract prior to Wednesday night's 11:59 ET deadline. Any player not tendered a contract would become a free agent, opening the door for him to sign with any interested team.

The list of Rays arbitration-eligible players included the following (the list includes what projects their salaries will be in 2016):

Alex Cobb ($4 million), Logan Forsythe ($3.3 million), Brandon Guyer ($1.3 million), Desmond Jennings ($3.1 million), Jake McGee ($4.7 million), Logan Morrison ($4.1 million), Erasmo Ramirez ($2.8 million), Rene Rivera ($1.6 million) and Drew Smyly ($3.9 million).

Conger, 27, is a switch-hitter who started 53 games at catcher in 2015 for the Astros. He spent the first five seasons of his career with the Angels, then he was traded to the Astros in November 2014.

In 2015, he appeared in 73 games, setting career highs in homers (11) and RBIs (33). Conger was a first-round pick of the Angels (25th overall) in the 2006 MLB Draft.

Most players counter what they are initially offered by their club then they negotiate to try and reach an agreement. If they cannot reach an agreement, the club and the player would head to an aribitration hearing where an arbitrator would decide which salary the player will receive for the 2016 season.

While the argument could have been made that the Rays should not have tendered contracts to Jennings or Rivera based on their performances in 2015, arguments countering those sentiments obviously outweighed the concerns.

Jenning was limited to just 28 games in 2015 because of two left knee injuries that required two trips to the disabled list. His season ended after dental surgery left him in a bad way. On the flip side, when Jennings was healthy, he brought a lot to the Rays' offense. A good indicator of what he is capable of doing occurred when he hit .353 with a double, a triple and a home run along with five RBIs over 10 games after his activation from the DL in August.

The Rays feel like a healthy Jennings in 2016 can help give the offense a jolt.

Rivera's lack of offense in 2016 was a disappointment, but they liked him enough to leave the more offensive-oriented J.P. Arencibia off the 40-man roster in favor of Rivera.

Conger will compete against Rivera and Curt Casali for a spot in the catching rotation.

Bill Chastain is a reporter for
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