Rays likely to tender all arb-eligible players

Zunino, Pham, Duffy, Roe key to Tampa Bay's 2019 plans

November 28th, 2018

With Friday's 8 p.m. ET deadline to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players quickly approaching, MLB.com is taking an in-depth look at the immediate financial decisions weighing on each club. For players tendered contracts, they will have until Jan. 11 to work out a new deal with their team, after which they can exchange arbitration figures, settle on a deal or go to a hearing.

In this arena, the Rays figure to be one of baseball's least busy teams this week. While clubs like Arizona and Milwaukee have 14 arbitration-eligible players, Tampa Bay only has four.

<p. a="" decisions="" here="" is="" of="" preview="" rays="" roster="" the=""> What's left to do?

Not much, after the club designated C.J. Cron for assignment prior to the deadline to protect prospects from the Rule 5 Draft on Nov. 20. Coming off a career year and in his second year of arbitration, Cron was likely set to earn the largest raise of any player on the Rays' roster. That made him Tampa Bay's most likely non-tender candidate, given its financial constraints. </p.>

Cron earn $2.6 million in 2018, but that isn't the Rays' problem now since he was claimed on waivers by the Twins on Nov. 26. The question remains, though, how the Rays plan to replace Cron's production. The slugger paced the club in a slew of major offensive categories in '18, including home runs (30), runs (68), RBIs (74), total bases (247), slugging (.493) and OPS (.816).

In the power department, no player on the Rays' roster hit more than 21 home runs last season; Tommy Pham hit 14 with St. Louis and seven in 39 games with Tampa Bay.

Who else is arbitration-eligible?

With Cron out of the picture, the Rays only have four arbitration-eligible players, and they're expected to tender contracts to all of them: catcher Mike Zunino, Pham, infielder and right-hander . All figure to feature heavily into Tampa Bay's 2019 plans.

Zunino, 27, was acquired with outfielder  and prospect Michael Plassmeyer for and Minor League lefty Jake Fraley on Nov. 8. Pham was the centerpiece of a July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline deal with the Cardinals. Duffy rebounded from an injury-lost 2017 season to post a .294/.361/.366 slash line last year, and he can play all four infield positions. Roe proved reliable in relief, and he should be affordable, given that he's arbitration-eligible for just the first time.

Who is the most likely non-tender candidate?

That would be Roe, who had a 3.58 ERA across 61 appearances for the Rays last season. That constituted the largest big league workload for the 32-year-old journeyman, who was purchased by Tampa Bay in 2017 following stints with the Braves, Orioles, Yankees, Marlins, D-backs, Mariners and Rockies.

Roe's projected 2019 salary should be reasonable for a reliever who struck out more than a batter per inning and managed 31 holds. That said, anything is possible for a small-market club that considers pitching roles as fluid as the Rays do. Tampa Bay has 18 pitchers on its 40-man roster who could ostensibly work in relief.