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After winning 96 games in 2019, the Tampa Bay Rays enter the offseason with 37 players under contract for 2020. Here is a breakdown of who is returning, who is not, and possible payroll estimates.
The Tampa Bay Rays finished the season with the lowest payroll in Major League Baseball, spending roughly 53 million. With 37 players under contract entering the offseason the Rays are already positioned to spend more money in 2020 before making any trades or signing any free agents. Here is a breakdown of the players under contract as they enter the offseason:

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Four players are signed under contract for 2020, including Charlie Morton, Kevin Kiermaier, Blake Snell and Brandon Lowe.

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2020 Salaries:

Morton: 15M
Kiermaier: 10M
Snell: 7M
B. Lowe: 1.5M
In total, the Rays have 33.5M locked up in just four players. This amount represents over 60% of last year’s total payroll.

Nine players are arbitration eligible heading into the offseason, including Tommy Pham, Mike Zunino, Matt Duffy, and Jesus Aguilar.

2020 Projected Arbitration Salaries:

Pham: 8.6M
Zunino: 4.9M
Duffy: 2.9M
Aguilar: 2.5M
Roe: 2.2M
Glasnow: 1.9M
Drake: 1.9M
Heredia: 1.1M
Robertson: 1.1M
Assuming the Rays retain all nine arbitration eligible players, they would be in line to spend roughly 27M. But, with the Rays nothing is assumed and there is no guarantee that Mike Zunino and Matt Duffy will be tendered a contract. If they are released to free agency, the Rays should expect to spend roughly 19M in arbitration.

With Ji-Man Choi and Nate Lowe presumably set to handle the duties at first base next season, Jesus Aguilar’s future as a Ray could also be in doubt.

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In the unlikely event that all nine players are retained, the Rays would have nearly 61M tied up in 13 players, already exceeding their total payroll total of 2019. If they do indeed part ways with Zunino and Duffy, they would have nearly 53M wrapped up in 11 players.

The remaining portion of the 40-man roster is made up of players still under pre-arbitration team control. Assuming that Johnny Davis is released, that leaves 24 players making near the league minimum.

Tampa Bay Rays minor league pitcher Blake Bivens has wished his late wife a heartbreaking “happy 25th birthday in heaven” less than two months after she and his 1-year-old son were killed in a triple homicide in rural Virginia.

Bivens, 24, posted a smiling family photo with his wife, Emily, and their 14-month-old son Cullen, who were fatally shot on Aug. 27 along with his mother-in-law, Joan Bernard, 62, in Keeling, Virginia.

“Happy 25th Birthday in heaven, baby!” he wrote. “I thank God everyday for letting me have you for a short time. Your love and kindness has impacted so many people. I miss you so much. Give our little pooh bear a kiss for me. I love you both so much and can’t wait to see you again.”

Bivens’ brother-in-law, Matthew Thomas Bernard, 18, has been charged with three counts of first-degree murder.

Bivens, who pitched for the Double A Montgomery (Ala.) Biscuits this past season, celebrated his three-year anniversary with his wife in January. The two were high school sweethearts.

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He wrote in the wake of their deaths that his “heart was turned to ash” and that “life as I knew it was destroyed.”

2020 Players Still Under Team Control:

Ji-Man Choi (Made $850,000 in 2019)
Wendle
Adames
Diaz
Brosseau
N. Lowe
Meadows
M. Perez
McKay
Alvarado
T. Richards
Yarbrough
Pagan
Chirinos
Castillo
Pruitt
Milner
De Leon
Kittredge
Banda
Beeks
Anderson
Poche
Fairbanks
Unless the Rays sign players like Willy Adames and Austin Meadows to long-term extensions this offseason, all of the players listed above will make near the league minimum. The Rays are at liberty to award raises to players that they deem fit, but for the most part the increases in pay will be nominal.

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With that being said, if we assume that Ji-Man Choi makes roughly the same in 2020 as he did this season and the remaining 23 players make roughly 570K, the Rays would have an additional 14M in salary locked up.

Looking ahead, if Mike Zunino and Matt Duffy are out of the equation entering the offseason the Rays will have roughly 67M already accounted for. If they choose to retain Zunino and Duffy, that number will rise to 75M.

It should be noted that if they choose to part ways with Zunino, they will have to sign or trade for a catcher which brings us to the three Rays players set to hit free agency this offseason.

2020 Free Agents:

d’Arnaud (3.515M in ’19)
Garcia (3.5M in ’19)
Sogard (1.8M in ’19)
Travis d’Arnaud seems to be the most likely of the bunch to return to the Rays next season, especially if the Rays part ways with Mike Zunino.

What this means for the offseason:

With a majority of the 96 win team under team control and returning in 2020, the Rays will be in the market to fill only a handful of holes. They will likely search for a powerful right handed bat to fill the hole void by free-agent-to-be, Avisail Garcia. Additionally, they could be in the market for a bonafide closer to solidify an already strong bullpen. Depending on what route they choose to take regarding Mike Zunino, they may also be in the market for a catcher, possibly signing Travis d’Arnaud.

The issue facing the Rays is that they have an aforementioned 67-75M already locked up on the 40-man roster forcing them to be much more active in the trade market this offseason rather than the free-agent market.

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Essentially, I wouldn’t be expecting any Charlie Morton like signings this winter. Instead, look for them to flip some pitching and infield depth for some right handed pop and possibly sign Travis d’Arnaud to a 2-year deal.

Other than that, look for the Rays to possibly bring Willy Adames and Austin Meadows to the table to discuss possible extensions.

NEXT: 2019 Season Awards and Superlatives
Stay tuned to Rays Colored Glasses for all the offseason news, speculation, and analysis regarding the Tampa Bay Rays.

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