Decisions on Francisco, Roberts loom for Rays
Both would be free agents if not tendered contracts by Friday's deadline
ST. PETERSBURG -- Friday's 11:59 p.m. ET deadline for clubs to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players will most likely affect the Rays in the cases of two players: Ben Francisco and Ryan Roberts.
Players eligible for arbitration have between three and six years of Major League experience, with the exception of players known as Super Twos, who have fewer than three years of service time but are also eligible for arbitration.
Tampa Bay's arbitration-eligible players include: David Price (earned $4.35 million in 2012), Jeff Niemann ($2.5 million), Burke Badenhop ($1.075 million), Matt Joyce ($499,500), Sean Rodriguez ($492,800), Reid Brignac ($490,600), Sam Fuld ($489,400), Roberts ($2,012,500) and Francisco ($1,537,500).
If Francisco and Roberts -- or any of the Rays' other arbitration-eligible players -- aren't tendered a contract, they will become free agents.
Roberts hit .214 with six home runs and 14 RBIs with the Rays this past season after coming over from the Arizona Diamondbacks on July 24 in exchange for Minor Leaguer Tyler Bortnick. Roberts settled in at second base toward the latter part of the season and would be a solid option to fill that position in 2013, but Tampa Bay would need to decide if he'll be worth approximately $3 million -- the figure he'll likely get if he goes to arbitration.
Francisco also might fit in well if the Rays decide to move Desmond Jennings to center field, which might call for using Francisco in a platoon role with Fuld. But like Roberts' case, Tampa Bay must decide if it wants to pay Francisco something in the neighborhood of $2 million -- after arbitration -- to patrol the outfield.
Once contracts are tendered, clubs can negotiate with players right up until their arbitration hearings. But the Rays' self-imposed policy is to conclude their negotiating by the deadline to file numbers, which is Jan. 18. The club makes an exception to this deadline if negotiating a multiyear deal with a player.
Niemann was the lone Rays player to go to arbitration in 2012 after the team came to terms with Price, Badenhop and center fielder B.J. Upton just prior to the deadline to exchange figures.
Niemann lost in arbitration and played the 2012 season for the $2.75 million offered by the club rather than the $3.2 million he sought.
Tampa Bay remains unbeaten in six salary arbitration cases, and under the current front-office regime, the team is unbeaten in five cases. In addition to Niemann, the Rays twice won against former catcher Josh Paul, as well as against Dioner Navarro and Upton.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.