ST. PETERSBURG -- While the main focus over the next few weeks will be to try and improve the roster before the start of Spring Training, the Rays’ also will look to come to an agreement with the club's arbitration-eligible players before Friday's 1 p.m. ET deadline.
The Rays entered the offseason with nine arbitration-eligible players, but with Tommy Pham, Matt Duffy, Jesús Aguilar and Guillermo Heredia now off the team, Mike Zunino re-signing on a one-year deal, and Chaz Roe settling at $2,185,200 (per MLB.com's Mark Feinsand), Tampa Bay will turn its attention to these players: Tyler Glasnow, Hunter Renfroe, Oliver Drake and Daniel Robertson.
Both sides will have until Friday's deadline to come to an agreement in order to avoid going to an arbitration hearing. Last offseason, the Rays settled with three of their four arbitration-eligible players, with Pham being the lone player to go through an arbitration hearing.
This year, the Rays are expecting a smoother process with the remaining players. Tampa Bay works under a "file and trial" approach, which means they treat the arbitration figure exchange date as a hard deadline; if the club and player are unable to avoid arbitration prior to exchanging salary figures, the understanding is that the club will no longer negotiate a one-year deal with that player.
Of the group, Glasnow is expected to have the biggest impact on the 2020 team. Glasnow, who battled injuries in ‘19 but still posted a 1.78 ERA in 12 starts, figures to be one of the top three starting pitchers in a rotation that could shape out to be the best in the American League.
Glasnow, 26, is going through the arbitration process for the first time as a Super Two and is projected to receive $2 million, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts. That number is significantly higher than the $566,700 figure Glasnow earned last season.
Drake, Renfroe and Robertson are also entering the arbitration process for the first time, and they also project to get an increase in salary. Drake solidified himself as a key member in the Rays' bullpen, posting a 3.21 ERA across 50 outings and finishing with a 1.2 bWAR. The 32-year-old right-hander is projected to receive $1.5 million through arbitration.
Renfroe, who was acquired from the Padres earlier in the offseason, hit 33 home runs in ‘19 and finished with a 2.6 WAR in 140 games. The new Rays outfielder is projected to earn $3.5 million through arbitration, which is the most of the five arbitration-eligible players.
Robertson’s development took a step back in 2019, as the versatile infielder battled injuries and struggles at the plate before his midseason demotion to Triple-A Durham. Robertson, who turns 26 in March, finished with a .213 average and connected on just two home runs in 74 games. But despite the struggles, Tampa Bay believes Robertson can bounce back and perform like he did during the ‘18 season, when he hit nine home runs and finished third on the club with a 2.6 WAR. Robertson projects to make $1.25 million through arbitration.