Heredia a free agent as Rays opt to non-tender
The Rays have been faced with difficult decisions throughout the winter as they shuffle their roster in order to clear room on the 40-man roster. Those decisions continued on Monday as the Rays announced they have non-tendered outfielder Guillermo Heredia, making him an unrestricted free agent.
Heredia was acquired from the Mariners in the same deal that brought catcher Mike Zunino to the Rays. In his first season with the Rays, Heredia showed elite defense in the outfield, especially in center field, but struggled to get going offensively.
The 28-year-old played in 89 games last season, mostly as a backup to Kevin Kiermaier in center field, and hit .225 with five home runs in 231 plate appearances. Heredia, who made $782,000 this year, is out of Minor League options and is in his first year of eligibility for salary arbitration.
Heredia’s biggest impact came in the clubhouse and in the dugout, where he became an emotional leader on the team. Heredia was credited for keeping the clubhouse loose, and when he was sent down to Triple-A Durham in July, Rays manager Kevin Cash noted that the club missed the outfielder’s energy in the dugout.
Now that Heredia is a free agent, the Rays have 39 players on the 40-man roster and have the ability to pursue a free-agent outfielder. Tommy Pham, Austin Meadows and Kiermaier comprise the projected outfield, with Brandon Lowe capable of playing the corner outfield spots and new acquisition Brian O'Grady is also able to play all three outfield positions. Despite the decision Monday, the Rays aren’t ruling out making a run at Heredia at some point during the winter.
Aside from Heredia, relief pitcher Chaz Roe was another candidate to get non-tendered before Monday’s deadline. The Rays, however, elected to tender Roe and will head to arbitration with the veteran right-hander.
The Rays also tendered contracts to Pham, Tyler Glasnow, Oliver Drake and Daniel Robertson.
• Jesús Aguilar, designated for assignment by the Rays last week, was claimed from unconditional release waivers by the Marlins on Monday. The first baseman was acquired from the Brewers in July and hit four home runs in 37 games with Tampa Bay.
• Former Rays players C.J. Cron, Tim Beckham and Steven Souza Jr. were among the players who were non-tendered on Monday. Cron has a significant thumb injury that could keep him out for some time. Souza Jr. is coming off a torn ACL and LCL. Beckham, whom the Rays selected with the No. 1 pick in the 2008 Draft, slashed .237/.293/.461 and hit 15 home runs with the Mariners last season.