What Is Left?

Yesterday, the club was forced to make some rather unpleasant decisions regarding who to offer arbitration to. It can never be an easy thing to tell someone that they are now jobless in December, but Dioner Navarro, Lance Cormier, Willy Aybar, and J.P. Howell were all released by the Rays last night.

Navarro’s release is not a surprise given his immature actions regarding being left off the playoff roster as well as his rapidly declining performance and both Cormier and Aybar had reached a point in their career where their salaries had exceeded their production. However, Howell’s release says more about his shoulder than anything else.  The good news is Howell has already said he wants to come back to the Rays so it is likely the club will work out a new deal with him at a reduced rate. Had the Rays offered Howell arbitration, the club would have had to offer him at least $1.44m as players cannot have their pay reduced by any more than 20% in arbitration. Given the fact Howell missed all of 2010 due to injury, his arbitration would have been a slam dunk case, the club feels that the safer play is to work a separate deal with Howell.

Here is what the Rays’ 40 man roster looks like after these latest moves last night:


  • Nevin Ashley
  • John Jaso ($0.4m)
  • Jose Lobaton
  • Kelly Shoppach ($3.0m)


  • Jason Bartlett (~$5.0m)
  • Reid Brignac ($0.4m)
  • Dan Johnson (~$1.0m)
  • Elliot Johnson ($0.4m)
  • Evan Longoria ($2.0m)
  • Sean Rodriguez ($0.4m)


  • Leslie Anderson
  • Desmond Jennings ($0.4m)
  • Matt Joyce ($0.4m)
  • Fernando Perez
  • Justin Ruggiano
  • B.J. Upton (~$4.0m)
  • Ben Zobrist ($4.5m)


  • Matt Bush
  • Alex Cobb
  • Wade Davis ($0.4m)
  • Dane De La Rosa
  • Mike Ekstrom
  • Matt Garza (~$5.0)
  • Jeremy Hellickson ($0.4m)
  • Jake McGee ($0.4m)
  • Jeff Niemann (~$1.3m)
  • David Price ($1.3m)
  • James Shields ($4.3m)
  • Andy Sonnanstine ($0.5m)
  • Albert Suarez
  • Alex Torres

The bolded names represent the 20 names that are likely locks for the opening 25 man day roster and I guesstimate that group will cost the Rays $35.5m once all of the arbitration cases are resolved. If you are to believe the $50.0m number that has been bantered about is a hard cap for the front office, that leaves them with $14.5m of dollars to play with on the free agent market to fill five spots on the 25 man roster. The Rays have also recently signed minor league free agents Cory Wade and R.J. Swindle to minor league deals and there is a chance both could make the opening day roster. Wade has major league experience while Swindle could be the left-handed specialist for the club as it is unlikely Randy Choate returns and Jake McGee’s talents would be wasted in that kind of role. Swindle, much like Choate, has been an extremely successful pitcher against lefties throughout his minor league career but has never had more than brief sips of coffee at the major league level.

Other clubs had to make these same choices yesterday and here are some of the more interesting names now on the open market that the Rays could consider adding:

  • Bobby Jenks – the large closer had some rough spots in 2010 but Tommy Rancel tells us why Jenks would be a good addition.
  • Matt Diaz – Diaz was originally drafted by Rays and has become quite good at hitting left-handed pitching. He is not the best glove guy in the world, but a Diaz/Johnson platoon at DH would be a very effective pairing.
  • Scott Hairston – He, like Diaz, hits lefties well in his career but is a good defender and can play all three spots in the outfield. Think Gabe Kapler – but with better offense.
  • Jack Cust – His glove is atrocious, but his home run, walk , or strikeout approach would be welcome here because Cust knows how to get on base. That said, tendering Dan Johnson probably eliminates any hope of Cust unless the club envisions Johnson as the everyday first baseman.

About Jason Collette

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