Rays Decline Options on Dan Wheeler and Willy Aybar; Add Elliot Johnson to 40-man roster | The Process Report

Rays Decline Options on Dan Wheeler and Willy Aybar; Add Elliot Johnson to 40-man roster

By Tommy Rancel //

In our first taste of the hot stove, the Rays announced they have declined the 2011 options on relief pitcher Dan Wheeler and infielder Willy Aybar.

The declined option of Wheeler has been widely expected. The team held a $4 million option on the 32-year-old, but he simply isn’t worth that. Instead, the team will pay him a $1 million buyout. As mentioned last week, Wheeler does have Type-A free agent status, but the club is not likely to offer him arbitration.

Saying Wheeler isn’t worth $4 million doesn’t mean he is useless. He excels against right-handed batters and Joe Maddon used him accordingly. In fact, Wheeler pitched with the platoon advantage more than any other pitcher this season. At a reduced salary, he would still a useful piece in the pen.

The decline of Aybar may be a bit of a surprise on the surface; however, like every Rays’ move there is a process behind it. Because of his original call-up date, Aybar achieved super-two status – meaning he is eligible for four years of arbitration instead of the standard three. When he signed his extension back in 2009, Aybar gave a few years of arbitration in exchange for financial security.

After productive seasons in 2008 and 2009, Aybar put up a slash line of .230/.309/.344 last year. Once thought of as an average defender at the corners, his reputation has taken a hit in recent seasons; although it’s truly too small of a sample size to really tell.

Meanwhile, like Wheeler, Aybar still has use. Although the Rays declined his $2.2 million option (he receives $275 buyout), the team could negotiate a new deal with Aybar or take him to arbitration. If they take him to arbitration, and win, they’ll likely get him back at a salary that falls in between his 2010 salary ($1.35 million) and the salary he would’ve made had the option been picked up; possibly saving some money in the process. If the Rays truly are done with Aybar, he can be non-tendered and free to sign elsewhere.

With space on the 40-man roster, the team  selected the contract of utility man Elliot Johnson . After being designated for assignment in the spring, Johnson stuck around with the organization. Adding him to the 40-man roster, keeps him around for at least one more year. In 109 games for the Durham Bulls, he hit .319/.375/.475. Johnson, 26, is a switch-hitter and has the ability to play at least six positions. His versatility and his price tag make him a legit bench candidate for the 2011 Rays.

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