Yesterday, before the arbitration deadline, the Rays had choices to make with five remaining arbitration-eligible players. David Price, B.J. Upton, J.P. Howell, and newly-acquired reliever Burke Badenhop were all signed to one-year deals avoiding an arbitration hearing in February. Jeff Niemann, though, wasn’t able to work out a deal with Rays and is heading into arbitration.
Niemann asked for 450,000 more than the $2.75 that the Rays offered him, and apparently it’s worth the 17-day arbitration debate. I’m not sure what Niemann was thinking when deciding to test arbitration, as his chances of winning are extremely slim. The Rays are undefeated in all five of their past arbitration cases (4-0 in the Friedman era). Considering the circumstances, it would be a shocker if Niemann won the arbitration case. The 6-foot-9 righty posted an ERA of 4.06 last season while struggling with some injuries, and has also a been a likely trade piece. That is why a multi-year deal, which is the only thing that can still avoid arbitration, is probably not going to work out for Niemann.
As for the other four arbitration eligibles who tried to work out a deal before the deadline, the result much better. David Price’s deal was pretty much a bargain for the Rays. Price, who opted out of his contract earlier this offseason, was predicted to make $7.8 million next season by MLBTradeRumors.com’s salary projections, assuming that he would go through arbitration. The Rays pulled off an excellent deal, signing Price to a one-year agreement worth $4.35 million. Of course, a long-term contract extension with Price would be ideal, but the one-year deal is still good news for the Rays. Price’s $4.35 million agreement tied Dontrelle Willis’ record for the highest ever for a first-time arbitration eligible pitcher. When you look at the kind of unbelievable potential Price has, the Rays can’t have any regrets on this deal.
B.J. Upton, Burke Badenhop, and J.P. Howell were still without a contract agreement as the deadline loomed. Upton, along with Price, highlighted the Rays’ arbitration chatter. B.J., who batted .243 last year with 36 stolen bases, 81 RBI’s, and 23 homers, was expecting a pricey salary for 2012. Upton’s salary projection had him at $7.6 million for next year, with a possible arbitration hearing in consideration. The Rays were able to come to terms on a reasonable deal with Upton, which will pay him $7 million in 2012. B.J.’s $7 million is an over $2 million increase from 2011’s $4.825 million salary, and will make him the second-highest paid player on the team next year. There’s a lot of money going to Upton here, but the Rays have to feel pretty good about the move at the end of the day. Burke Badenhop’s one-year deal was a bit more predictable than Price and Upton’s. Badenhop, who was acquired in a trade from the Miami Marlins over a month ago, signed a one-year agreement worth $1.075 million ($1.1 million projected) before the deadline yesterday. Badenhop went 2-3 with a 4.10 ERA out of the Marlins’ bullpen last season. J.P. Howell had a disappointing year in 2012, after recovering from a major shoulder injury. The Rays continued to show that they have confidence in the 28 year-old reliever, signing Howell to a one-year deal worth $1.35 million on Monday. Howell posted a lopsided 6.16 ERA last season, but has eyes to get back on track in 2012.