- Rays third baseman Matt Duffy is likely headed to the IL to begin the season, manager Kevin Cash told reporters (including Eduardo A. Encina and Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times). Duffy has been bothered by a hamstring problem for much of the spring, and will have tests done after he was a late scratch from today’s game lineup. The versatile Rays shouldn’t have much of a problem filling in for Duffy in the short term, as Joey Wendle, Yandy Diaz, and Daniel Robertson are all options at third base. Encina and Topkin also think that Duffy’s injury could open the door for Guillermo Heredia to break camp with the team, unless the Rays choose to use the roster spot on an extra pitcher.
2:00pm: Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports the yearly breakdown (Twitter link). Snell will be paid a $3MM signing bonus and earn $1MM in 2019. He’ll then be paid salaries of $7MM, $10.5MM, $12.5MM and $16MM in the subsequent four seasons. That $16MM salary in 2023 can increase by up to $2MM based on his placement in the Cy Young race.
1:50pm: The Rays have formally announced the contract as well as the terms of the deal. Snell can earn an additional $2MM via incentives, per the team.
1:43pm: The Rays have reached an agreement on a five-year, $50MM contract with reigning Cy Young winner Blake Snell, Jeff Passan of ESPN reports (on Twitter). There are no options included on the contract, which will buy out all of Snell’s arbitration seasons and what would have been his first free-agent year. Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweets that Snell’s deal does not include a no-trade clause. Snell is represented by Sosnick, Cobbe & Karon.
Snell, 26, will receive the largest contract ever guaranteed to a pitcher with between two and three years of service time, breaking the previous record held by Gio Gonzalez, as can be seen in MLBTR’s Extension Tracker. (Miles Mikolas could technically be considered in that category, though as a player who had established himself overseas and would’ve otherwise been eligible for free agency, his extension was under wholly different circumstances.) Despite the fact that he has less service time and was not yet eligible for arbitration, Snell rode that Cy Young Award to a guarantee that tops the sums promised to both Luis Severino (four years, $40MM) and Aaron Nola (four years, $45MM) earlier this offseason.
Because Snell was still a year from arbitration, he was still a year from cashing in on his first seven-figure payday. Even if one were to aggressively forecast what he’d make in arbitration by suggesting he’d top Dallas Keuchel’s record $7.25MM first-time arbitration salary for a pitcher, Snell likely would’ve topped out around $35-40MM between now and the end of his arbitration eligibility. He’s possibly trading as much as $20MM in that would-be first year of free agency in exchange for the up-front payday, but that’s in a best-case scenario for his performance. A more realistic forecast of his future would need to account for the downside of injury and regression/decline.
The contract for Snell comes just weeks after the left-hander took umbrage with the organization’s decision to renew his 2019 contract for $573,700 — a raise of just $15K over the preceding season (at a time when the league-minimum salary increased by $5K).
“The Rays have the right under the collective bargaining agreement to renew me at or near the league-minimum salary,” Snell told Topkin at the time. “They also have the ability to to more adequately compensate me, as other organizations have done with players who have similar achievements to mine. The Rays chose the former.” At this point, one would imagine that renewal amounts to little more than water under the bridge with a new record-setting extension locked into place.
Snell, the No. 52 overall pick by the Rays back in 2011 and a longtime top prospect, solidified himself as an MLB-caliber starter in 2017 season with 24 starts of 4.04 ERA ball. However, he thrust himself into the ranks of the game’s elite pitchers in 2018 when he overpowered opponents with a 1.89 ERA with 11.0 K/9 against 3.2 BB/9 in 31 starts. Snell’s 15.1 percent swinging-strike rate was the fourth-best mark among all qualified MLB starters, trailing only Max Scherzer, Patrick Corbin and Carlos Carrasco while tying him with NL Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom. His 33.1 percent opponents’ chase rate on pitches out of the strike zone ranked 18th among MLB starters.
It’s the second extension of the week for the Rays, who also locked up promising young infielder/outfielder Brandon Lowe on a six-year, $24MM pact. Looking ahead, Snell joins Lowe and center fielder Kevin Kiermaier as the only players on the Rays’ roster to have a guaranteed contract beyond the 2020 season. Kiermaier’s deal will come off the books after the 2022 season, while Snell is controlled through 2023 and Lowe through 2024 (plus a pair of club options). That trio won’t combine for more than $34.2MM in any single season in which their contracts overlap, leaving even the cost-conscious Rays with a bit of flexibility.
TODAY: Tampa Bay has announced the deal. It could top out at $49MM in total value if both options are exercised and all incentives are reached, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reported.
YESTERDAY: The Rays have agreed to a six-year, $24MM contract extension with infielder/outfielder Brandon Lowe, reports Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (via Twitter). The contract contains a pair of club options that would buy out a pair of would-be free-agent seasons as well. Lowe is a client of the Bledsoe Agency.
Lowe has just 43 games of Major League experience under his belt but is widely regarded as one of the Rays’ most promising prospects. Baseball America rated him as the game’s No. 93 prospect this offseason, while Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs ranked him 46th overall.
The early returns on Lowe in the Major Leagues were relatively promising. The 2015 third-rounder reached the Majors for the first time at the age of 23 and batted .233/.324/.450 with six home runs, six doubles, a pair of triples and two stolen bases (in three attempts). Context-neutral metrics like OPS+ (112) and wRC+ (113) felt his bat was 12 to 13 percent better than that of a league-average hitter when adjusting for league and home park.
Lowe’s 25.6 strikeout rate was likely a bit higher than the Rays would prefer, but he showed power and drew walks at a 10.8 percent clip in his first crack at MLB opposition. That production came on the heels of a sensational .297/.391/.558 slash between Double-A and Triple-A, creating further optimism that Lowe can be an integral part of the Rays moving forward.
Defensively, Lowe has spent the bulk of his career as a second baseman, though he got his feet wet with more than 500 innings of work in the outfield corners last season (between the Majors and minors). Scouting reports have generally projected him as a potentially average defender at second, though he’s considered to be more of a bat-first player.
It’s unusual but not unheard of for teams to lock up players with such minimal MLB experience, and the Rays in particular have done so in past years with both Evan Longoria and Matt Moore. Lowe’s deal will line up identically to the Phillies’ six-year, $24MM deal with Scott Kingery — a contract signed before Kingery even played an MLB game.
There’s certainly risk to committing to a player so early in his professional career, but the $24MM risk is one all the more worth taking for a low-payroll club like the Rays that typically has a great deal of difficulty hanging onto quality players as their arbitration earnings increase. For Lowe, he could potentially have earned more over the course of his three arb seasons — and the option years are sure to be at an affordable rate — but the allure of locking in a sizable guaranteed payday when his first arbitration season is still three years away is understandable. If both of the club options on the deal are ultimately exercised, he’ll reach free agency a few months after his 32nd birthday.
Lowe now joins Kevin Kiermaier as the only Rays players to be guaranteed anything beyond the 2020 season. Charlie Morton, set to earn $15MM in both 2019 and 2020, is the only other player whose contract for the 2020 season is guaranteed at the moment. Of course, given the Rays’ wealth of young talent, it’s quite likely that they’ll explore further extension possibilities between now and Opening Day.
This is the latest post of MLBTR’s annual Offseason in Review series, in which we take stock of every team’s winter dealings.
After a surprising 2018 season, the Rays prepared for a full return to contention with some intriguing trades and the priciest free agent signing in club history.
Major League Signings
- Charlie Morton, SP: Two years, $30MM (plus vesting option for 2021 that could be worth as much as $15MM depending on time spent on injured list)
- Avisail Garcia, OF: One year, $3.5MM
- Total spend: $33.5MM
Trades And Claims
- Acquired C Mike Zunino, OF Guillermo Heredia, and minor league LHP Michael Plassmeyer from the Mariners for OF Mallex Smith and minor league OF Jake Fraley
- Acquired IF Yandy Diaz and RHP Cole Sulser from the Indians as part of a three-team trade also involving the Mariners. (Indians acquired 1B Carlos Santana and $6MM from Seattle, and 1B/OF Jake Bauers from Tampa Bay. Mariners acquired $5MM from Tampa Bay, and 1B/DH Edwin Encarnacion and a Competitive Balance Draft Round-B pick from Cleveland.)
- Acquired RHP Emilio Pagan and Competitive Balance Draft Round-A pick from the Athletics, and minor league RHP Rollie Lacy from the Rangers as part of a three-team trade. (A’s acquired IF Jurickson Profar from Texas. Rangers acquired minor league IF Eli White and $750K in international bonus money from Oakland, and minor league right-hander Yoel Espinal and minor league LHPs Brock Burke and Kyle Bird from Tampa Bay.)
- Acquired RHP Oliver Drake from the Blue Jays for cash considerations
- Acquired minor league IF Gionti Turner from the Indians for RHP Chih-Wei Hu
- Acquired minor league RHP Caleb Sampen from the Dodgers for RHP Jaime Schultz
Notable Minor League Signings
- Jake Smolinski, Emilio Bonifacio, Luis Santos, Tyler Cloyd, Ryan Merritt, Casey Sadler, Ryan Sherriff, Ricardo Pinto, Jason Coats
Notable International Signings
- Sandy Gaston, RHP: $2.61MM signing bonus
The Rays enjoyed great success with the “opener” strategy in 2018, and they’ll continue to use openers to account for two of their five rotation spots this season. Joining reigning Cy Young winner Blake Snell and promising but still rather unproven righty Tyler Glasnow is an established veteran, yet one that still seems somewhat “young” in the sense that we’re only entering the third season of the reinvented Charlie Morton.
After nine seasons of decent but unspectacular work for the Braves, Pirates, and Phillies, Morton breathed new life into his career as a member of the 2017-18 Astros. The soft-tossing groundball specialist suddenly turned into a strikeout machine with a 95mph fastball, whiffing 364 batters in just 313 2/3 innings for Houston.
Since Morton turned 35 last November, however, his earning outlook was limited. It was the Rays who made a rare free agent splash to land the right-hander, agreeing to a sizable contract that doesn’t come with risk of long-term entanglements. Geography played a role (Morton and his family live in nearby Bradenton, Florida), though Morton was undoubtedly intrigued at the possibility of joining another young team that may be on the cusp of contention. This isn’t to say that the Rays are about to enjoy a 2017 Astros-esque level of success, yet the club has further established itself as a legitimate contender to reach the postseason, something that would’ve been sounded wild a year ago at this time.
Both last offseason and throughout 2018, Tampa Bay unloaded virtually all of its highest-paid veteran players, yet thrived by acquiring and developing unheralded young replacements who largely outproduced those more established names. This allowed the Rays to feel comfortable in making a big expenditure on Morton — his $15MM salary is almost a quarter of Tampa’s entire payroll.
This financial flexibility allowed the Rays to take a bit of a deeper look into the free agent and trade markets. Beyond Morton, Tampa Bay also had interest in such free agent names as slugger Nelson Cruz and second baseman DJ LeMahieu, while the Rays were also one of the many teams who discussed a J.T. Realmuto swap with the Marlins.
The Rays ended up doing in a different direction to address that latter need at catcher….well, as much as a Rays/Mariners trade can be described as “different” given the two clubs’ extensive history of deals. This time, the Rays and M’s combined on a five-player swap that saw Mallex Smith go to Seattle, while Tampa Bay added Guillermo Heredia to more or less take Smith’s place in the outfield, plus acquired catcher Mike Zunino to bring some stability behind the plate.
Zunino is well-known as one of the better defensive catchers in baseball, with outstanding pitch-framing and an increasing knack for throwing out baserunners. At minimum, the Rays will add some strong defense and some added pop to their catcher’s spot, as Zunino has 90 homers over the last five seasons. It seemed as if Zunino was rounding into becoming a true offensive force with a .251/.331/.509 season in 2017, yet he took a big step backwards to his old low-average and low-OBP ways last year, with just a .201/.259/.410 slash line over 405 plate appearances. The Rays as a whole cut back on their strikeout rate (25% to 22.4%) from 2017 to 2018, so there’s some hope that a new environment can help Zunino regain some of his 2017 patience.
Such a rebound would also be welcomed from Avisail Garcia, who turned in a huge 2017 but otherwise hasn’t completed a full season with an OBP of over .309. Garcia followed up his career year with a disappointing .236/.281/.438 performance over 385 PA, leading the White Sox to decline tendering a contract. The outfielder was hampered by injuries last year, however, leading the Rays to take a relatively inexpensive risk ($3.5MM) to see if Garcia can get on track.
The Rays’ offseason was also highlighted by a pair of three-team trades, one of which involved the Indians and (again) the Mariners. Tampa Bay’s involvement in the trade saw the Rays essentially swap former top prospect Jake Bauers for former Cleveland infielder Yandy Diaz, giving the Rays a bit more multi-positional versatility since Diaz can also play some third base, while matching Bauers’ skillset as a first baseman and corner outfielder. Minor league righty Cole Sulser and his eye-opening 12.3 K/9 at Triple-A also came to Tampa in the deal, giving the Rays another bullpen depth option.
A few years after being linked to Jurickson Profar in trade rumors, Tampa Bay was finally part of a Profar deal, only as the third team in the mix while the Athletics ended up with the infielder. The Rays’ contribution was three minor league pitchers to the Rangers, while picking up righty Emilio Pagan and a Competitive Balance Round-A draft pick (currently the 39th overall selection) from Oakland. Pagan will help fill the void left by veteran Sergio Romo in the bullpen, though Pagan’s tendency to allow a lot of fly balls and home runs will be tested in the AL East.
This is just speculative, but since the Rays picked up an extra draft pick in the Profar trade, perhaps that might make the team more open to surrendering a high pick to sign a qualifying offer free agent….like, for instance, Craig Kimbrel. The Rays are at least keeping an eye on Kimbrel’s market to see if the closer would be willing to take a shorter-term (one or two years) contract, though it may still be something of a longshot that Kimbrel ends up at Tropicana Field.
Adding Kimbrel would certainly be a major way of addressing a closer position that otherwise didn’t seem like a big priority for the Rays this winter. The team seems comfortable using Jose Alvarado as its primary ninth-inning option, though it’s fair to assume that several others will get some save opportunities as Tampa mixes and matches its arms. Ryne Stanek and Diego Castillo, for instance, could be used in the ninth inning when they’re not being used as openers.
Beyond just the personnel involved, the bigger question might be simply whether lightning can strike twice for the Rays and their opener strategy. Opponents have now had more time to get a book on Tampa Bay’s young relief corps, of course, and the uniqueness of the opener may fade now that other teams are also planning to use a one-or-two inning “starter” for one of their rotation spots. Adding Morton to chew up quality innings should help keep the bullpen fresh, though the Rays will again be performing a constant juggling act of their relievers, including a frequent shuttle to and from Triple-A Durham.
The same question could be asked of the position players. Only five Rays players topped the 400-PA plateau last season, in part due to some key names being added or subtracted in trades, but also due to the team’s roster full of players with multi-position capability, able to be moved in and out of the lineup as a game situation warrants. This season’s Rays have more of a set starting lineup on paper, though it will require some players to prove themselves capable of regular duty.
Trading Smith, for instance, puts pressure on Austin Meadows (a former top prospect) to take the leap in his second MLB season. Shortstop Willy Adames is being counted on for his own second-year improvement, while Joey Wendle will have to avoid a sophomore slump. Garcia is a total wild card. Ji-Man Choi delivered big numbers over 189 PA for Tampa last season, and will now have to produce over a full year as a frequent choice as the designated hitter. For Kevin Kiermaier and Matt Duffy, their primary challenge will simply be to stay healthy (Duffy has already run into problems in this regard).
As noted earlier, the Rays looked at some bigger names this winter, and did come away with Morton to help stabilize the rotation. Zunino also fills a need behind the plate, even if he isn’t Realmuto. For the remainder of the everyday lineup, however, it’s hard to argue that signing someone like Nelson Cruz wouldn’t have provided a clearer hitting upgrade. After Edwin Encarnacion was dealt from Cleveland to Seattle as part of that three-team deal, there was speculation that Encarnacion would then be flipped to Tampa, though such a follow-up move never materialized.
The Rays ended up with the much less-experienced first base/DH combination of Diaz and Choi, with others (Wendle, Brandon Lowe, Nate Lowe) likely to cycle through first base and much of the roster likely getting a DH day when warranted. Still, despite Choi’s impressive 2018 and Diaz’s highly-touted exit velocity numbers, Tampa might not have made much of a step up from Bauers and C.J. Cron, let alone the boost that a Cruz or Encarnacion would have provided.
The Rays designated Cron for assignment and watched him leave on waivers rather than pay him a projected $5.2MM arbitration salary. Bauers was moved after just one MLB season, following two years as a top-100 ranked prospect. It says something about Tampa Bay’s belief in Diaz that the team was willing to move Bauers this early in his career, though it could also speak to the sport’s general devaluation of players (like Bauers) who are limited to playing only first base and a little bit of subpar corner outfield.
2019 Season Outlook
The Red Sox and Yankees are both at least a few steps ahead of the Rays in the AL East, though Tampa Bay compares pretty favorably to the rest of the American League’s wild card contenders. Given the front office’s penchant for reshaping its roster on the fly, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Rays attempt a big midseason trade if they’re in the playoff hunt.
How would you grade the Rays’ offseason moves? (Link for app users.)
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images
New Rays right-hander Charlie Morton has been open in the past about his uncertainty surrounding how long he aims to continue playing, and he told MLB Network’s Jon Morosi that he is “fully expecting” to retire once his current contract with the Rays expires (Twitter link).
The 35-year-old signed a two-year, $30MM contract with Tampa Bay this offseason, allowing him to pitch closer to his Florida home. Morton’s contract also contains a vesting option for the 2021 season, which leaves open the possibility that he’ll pitch through his age-37 season, though that’s far from a certainty at this point.
Signed by the Astros to a two-year contract prior to the 2017 season, Morton broke out as an unexpected star in Houston, not only giving the ’Stros 313 2/3 innings of 3.36 ERA ball but also providing some memorable postseason moments. The righty fired five shoutout innings against the Yankees in the decisive Game 7 of the 2017 ALCS, pitched six innings of one-run ball against the Dodgers in Game 4 of the 2017 World Series and closed out that same World Series in Game 7 with four innings of relief.
He’ll now join an upstart Rays club that carries similar postseason aspirations after surprising many onlookers with a 90-win season in 2018. Tampa Bay reportedly plans to only utilize three traditional starters — 2018 Cy Young winner Blake Snell, Morton and young Tyler Glasnow — with the other two would-be rotation spots being occupied by “openers.” Ryne Stanek, Emilio Pagan, Colin Poche, Wilmer Font and Hunter Wood are all reportedly in the mix for that role (Stanek was the team’s most frequent option in 2018), while lefties Ryan Yarbrough and Jalen Beeks and right-hander Yonny Chirinos are currently the lead followup options.
The Rays will need to squeeze every last ounce of value out of their existing roster and payroll if they are to make a real bid for the postseason in an incredibly stratified American League. Here’s the latest, with all links to the reporting of Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times:
- With some payroll space evidently still available, the Rays have “maintained regular contact” with legendary reliever Craig Kimbrel, Topkin tweets. A successful pursuit remains “unlikely,” per the report. Surely the Rays would only consider Kimbrel on a short-term deal, as the organization has always been careful not to tie up too much future payroll. Whether Kimbrel will ultimately settle for a one or two-year pact — and, if so, what will drive his decisionmaking — isn’t yet evident.
- Two important young Tampa Bay hurlers are making progress in their efforts to return from Tommy John procedures, Topkin further reports (Twitter links). Brent Honeywell and Jose De Leon each threw against live hitters for the first time. It was only 15 pitches apiece, but that’s still a good sign that both of these well-regarded young hurlers are coming along. The Rays will likely continue to take things slow, but surely also entertain visions of either or both making an impact as a mid-season call-up.
- Topkin also looks in at Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, whom the team badly needs to turn in a healthy and productive campaign. Soon to turn 29, the rangy outfielder is coming off of a disappointing season at the plate in which he slashed just .217/.282/.370. Kiermaier has averaged barely more than 400 plate appearances annually over the past three years due to a variety of injuries. The maladies have tended to come about in the course of Kiermaier’s hard-charging play, though it doesn’t seem as if the team thinks there’s much to be gained from trying to rein him in. “It’s probably best for us to stay out of the way and keep our fingers crossed that none of the freak things happen,” says skipper Kevin Cash.
Though the common belief is that the Rays wouldn’t make an expensive splash to add Craig Kimbrel, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times tweets that there’s somewhat of a “never say never” sentiment within the organization as Kimbrel continues to linger (and as his price likely drops in corresponding fashion). The right-hander doesn’t appear likely to cash in on the mega contract he sought early in the offseason, and it’s not clear at this point how many clubs would even have interest on a multi-year pact. I ran through some potential landing spots for Kimbrel on shorter-term deals (with a significant annual value) last Friday and largely glossed over the Rays due to their historic reluctance to spend at that level and due to the fact that Kimbrel would require forfeiture of a draft pick (another prior sticking point for Tampa Bay). However, with a projected Opening Day payroll of just $60MM and only $27MM on the books in 2020 (per Roster Resource’s Jason Martinez), the Rays certainly have the payroll space to add Kimbrel if they look to break character for a second time this winter after already inking Charlie Morton (two years, $30MM). The Rays opened the 2018 season with a $76MM payroll.
SUNDAY: Snell’s renewal is official, Topkin tweets. He commented on the team’s decision (via Topkin), saying: “The Rays have the right under the collective bargaining agreement to renew me at or near the league-minimum salary. They also have the ability to to more adequately compensate me, as other organizations have done with players who have similar achievements to mine. The Rays chose the former. I will have no further comment and look forward to competing with my teammates and field staff in our quest to win the World Series in 2019.”
FRIDAY: The Rays intend to stick to their pre-arb salary formula with regard to lefty Blake Snell, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports. It is anticipated that the team will renew Snell’s contract at the price of just $573,700.
Plenty of young major leaguers are playing at similar rates of pay, to be sure. The minimum salary sits at $555K and most organizations stay close to it, typically handing out increases measured in the thousands or tens of thousands based upon service time and certain performance standards.
The collective bargaining agreement allows teams to pay pre-arb players whatever it likes, so long as they earn at that floor level. Snell, though, needn’t agree to the salary he’s allotted. And indications are he won’t, preferring instead to make a symbolic protest.
The southpaw says it’s “disappointing” that he wasn’t rewarded with a bigger increase after wrapping up a stellar season in which he walked off with the American League Cy Young Award. He was anything but vitriolic toward the Tampa Bay organization, but left no doubt that he’ll also be taking a businesslike approach in his future dealings with the club.
Given his immense achievement, it’s not surprising that Snell would feel a bit slighted. It’s true, as Topkin notes, that renewals aren’t terribly uncommon for players who’ve turned in big seasons. But the examples he cites also highlight just how stingy the Rays’ formula is. Josh Hader declined to agree to the $687,600 salary that the Brewers’ own spreadsheets spit out. Mookie Betts wouldn’t put his signature on a $950K payday after a season in which he placed second in the MVP voting. The same thing happened last spring with Carlos Correa, who was renewed at a cool $1MM.
It is understandable enough that the Rays wish to maintain discipline, as Topkin explains, and are wary of allowing “an exception” to make it impossible to “draw, and hold, the line” in future situations. Of course, the team set its formula by fiat and can modify it at will to incorporate whatever inputs it wishes. No doubt the data-savvy organization could imagine a way to reward truly exemplary performance without opening the door to otherwise unwanted expenses. A well-crafted incentive structure might even make good financial sense, though the Rays have surely thought that through already.
With some prior extension chatter having failed to gain traction, Topkin writes, the expectation now is that the sides will go year to year in the arbitration process. Snell will hope to follow Betts in making his employer pay up through his three arb years:
“Hopefully this pushes me. Arbitration will be the business side, and that’s what I’ll tell them. I think fair is fair. It all comes around in the end anyway. At the end of the day, you get what you put in. I’ll be motivated.”
If you’re interested in learning more about the use of formulas in setting pre-arb salaries, check out this old but good piece from Zach Links on the subject.
We’ll use this post to keep track of minor injuries throughout the day…
- Jose Altuve was scratched from a spring game for the second time in three days due to left side soreness, per Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle. Altuve underwent knee surgery in October to repair a patella avulsion fracture in his right knee. Still, the soreness does not appear to be a major cause for concern, as neither Altuve nor manager A.J. Hinch expressed anything but confidence about Altuve’s ability to get back on the field in short order. Altuve has been remarkably healthy throughout his career, hitting the injured list for the first time in eight seasons last year, though he still appeared in 137 games while hitting .316/.386/.451 and accumulating 5.2 rWAR.
- Matt Duffy has experienced discomfort in his left hamstring, keeping him from spring action, per MLB.com’s Juan Toribio. Duffy has played in only one game this spring as a result of the injury, and at this point it’s likely he won’t be ready by Opening Day. The 28-year-old burst onto the scene in his 2015 rookie campaign with San Francisco, slashing .295/.334/.428 on the way to an out-of-nowhere 4.4 fWAR. Achilles injuries muddied his 2016 campaign and cost him all but eight minor-league PAs in 2017, but the former 18th rounder steadied himself at his former third-base home last season, posting a solid 106 wRC+/2.4 fWAR for the upstart Rays.
- Mariners 3B Kyle Seager will see be sidelined for “several days” after an ill-advised dive in Friday’s game resulted in an injury to his left wrist, as MLB.com’s Greg Johns details. A slimmed-down Seager had looked to rebound after a sloppy 2018 campaign, which saw the 31-year-old post career-worsts in OBP, SLG, wRC+, and fWAR. His hard-hit rate, though, remained at a robust 37%, and the lefty rededicated himself to nutrition and fitness during a busy offseason at his North Carolina home. Ryon Healy, who made just two appearances at the hot corner last season, figures to get time there in the interim.
- The Rays are planning to use a three-man rotation consisting of Opening Day starter and reigning Cy Young winner Blake Snell, offseason signee Charlie Morton and 2018 trade acquisition Tyler Glasnow, Juan Toribio of MLB.com writes. From there, they’ll use a pair of openers in the would-be fourth and fifth slots of a traditional rotation; Ryne Stanek, Emilio Pagan, Colin Poche and Hunter Wood are among the candidates to function in that capacity. Candidates to follow the team’s openers include Ryan Yarbrough, Jalen Beeks, Jake Faria and Yonny Chirinos. As has been widely expected, it appears that the Rays will continue an aggressive means of pioneering what was a polarizing but increasingly accepted tactic throughout the league in 2018. Stanek was the team’s most frequent and successful opener in 2018, while Yarbrough was the most prolific followup arm (147 1/3 innings pitched despite making just six starts). Presumably, they’ll reprise those roles this year, with Tampa Bay shuffling the rest of the pitching mix based on matchups, workload and other factors.