Rays Avoid Arbitration With Joyce, Niemann, Fuld, and Roberts | The Process Report

Rays Avoid Arbitration With Joyce, Niemann, Fuld, and Roberts

The Rays agreed to one-yesr I contracts with their four remaining arbitration-eligible players on Friday. In addition to David Price and Sean Rodriguez (both agreed to terms earlier this winter) Matt Joyce, Jeff Niemann, Sam Fuld, and Ryan Roberts each reached an agreement with the team prior to Friday’s deadline for clubs and players to exchange formal arbitration figures. Teams and players can negotiate up to the date of the schedule hearing; however, Tampa Bay operates under the “file-and-go” system, meaning no futher negotiations take place after numbers are exchanged with multi-year contract talks being the only exception. Having made agreements prior to the deadline, the Rays can proceed with the rest of their off-season plans with cost certainty.

As a first-time eligible player, Matt Joyce receives a substantial increase in salary from the near league minimum he has received thus far. An All-Star in 2011, and projected middle-of-the-order bat in 2013, the Tampa native will make $2.45 million next season. MLBTradeRumors.com projected him to make $2.6 million through arbitration.

Comparisons are never exact, but they play a major part in arbitration hearings. With that said, Joyce, and fellow first-time eligible outfielder, Jason Heyward have produced similar statistics up to this point in their careers. Heyward also avoided a hearing with a one-year, $3.65 million deal with the Braves. Heyward is younger, and holds more potential than Joyce, but it would not have been a shock if Joyce decided to file closer to the $3 million mark and win in front of a neutral panel. With two years of eligibility remaining, there is still time for a multi-year extension should both sides choose to discuss one.

Another first-time eligible outfielder, Sam Fuld will make $725,000 next season. Fuld is a super-two player, meaning he will be eligible for arbitration four times instead of the customary three years. That said, as a role player, and one who spent a large chunk of his service time on the disabled list, Fuld will make more than the league minimum next season, however, not by much. As a projected fourth outfielder going forward, there will be a time when Fuld’s salary will outweigh his production and a younger, cheaper alternative will present itself. On the other hand, we are not at that point, and Fuld should see plenty of playing time next season a part-time player.

Going through the arbitration process for a second time, Ryan Roberts and Jeff Niemann will make around $3 million each in 2013. Niemann will make exactly $3 million next season after making $2.75 million in 2012. A talented pitcher when healthy, the right-hander has made just 31 starts (only eight last season) since 2011, having spent nearly 200 days on the disabled list. If the Rays can somehow keep him on the field for 30 starts, he is a prime candidate to be traded next winter.

Concurrently, Roberts may be a candidate to be traded before opening day 2013. At the time he was tendered a contract, Ben Zobrist was penciled as the team’s shortstop. This meant the potential for Roberts to be the team’s primary second baseman. However, with the addition of Yunel Escobar, Zobrist is now slotted to play most of the time at the keystone position. This leaves Roberts in a battle with Sean Rodriguez for playing time, mostly against left-handed pitching.

Roberts has been the better major-league performer and is the safer bet of the two to be productive in 2013, but he will make $2.95 million before incentives. Rodriguez is younger, cheaper ($1 million salary), and a better, more versatile defender with a bit more upside. If a team comes calling for Roberts, the Rays may opt to make a move and allocate the dollars currently dedicated to him in other areas of need.