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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.

Milwaukee Brewers: Off-season decisions – relief

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)
N. Lowe
M. Perez
T. Richards
De Leon
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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As much as we enjoyed the exploits of the record-breaking Bomba Squad, the 2020 Minnesota Twins will not sport the exact same list of players as the 2019 Minnesota Twins. (Obviously.)

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Derek Falvey and Thad Levine will be looking to improve the team throughout the offseason, from free agency, trades, and rising minor leaguers. Part of bringing one player up or in is letting another player go. There are several players from this year’s incarnation of the Twins who, no matter how much we enjoyed or shook our fists at their play, appear to be on the verge of departing from the confines of Target Field. Here are the five who stand out most to me.

Jonathan Schoop
While Schoop was a welcome veteran addition to the clubhouse and provided power from the bottom of the lineup, socking 23 bombas, he put up just a .256/.309/.473 slash line and saw his role supplanted by Luis Arraez during the summer. Schoop spent 2019 on a one-year contract and is entering free agency, so it’s likely the Twins will simply elect to let him walk back to the market.

Kyle Gibson
The longest-tenured Twin, Gibson’s 2019 was marked by such inconsistency (and a team-low minus-1.98 WPA) that he was dropped to a bullpen role, in which he still struggled during the end of the regular season and postseason. Gibson too will be entering free agency and considering it seems the Twins view young starters such as Devin Smeltzer and Randy Dobnak as potential upgrades, a split appears imminent.

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This 2019 season was a very interesting one for the Minnesota Twins for a number of reasons. There are many ways to dissect what went right and what went wrong, but more than anything, this season dished out some crucial lessons that the Twins will need to understand if they plan on having more success going forward. Let’s review the four major concepts that stuck out to me.

1. The position player core is solid
The question of the off-season last year was whether or not Byron Buxton and Miguel Sanó would be a part of the Twins future, and if they were, then to what degree? That question was partly answered as Sanó hit for a career high 137 wRC+ and put up a career high fWAR of 2.7 despite just playing 105 games. His defense at third base remained rough, but there should be no more disputes about his bat playing at the major league level.

Buxton’s answer to the question may not be as murky as split pea soup, but it isn’t as clear as the Twins would like. Buxton’s on-field play was fantastic, as he put up 2.7 fWAR in just 87 games played. But it’s that “87 games played” that again raises concern, considering that this was another season where he struggled to stay healthy. Buxton’s talent level will force the Twins to stick with him, but another injury-plagued season may lead them to look elsewhere.

Beyond those two players there were a few others who were overlooked like I was when they picked teams for dodge ball during gym class. These players put up seasons that were actually better than the two players who were the focus of the off-season. This is where I struggled, because while they had great seasons, I just got nailed in the spleen within three minutes, and you know what? Let’s just forget it.

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Anyways, players like Max Kepler, Jorge Polanco, and Mitch Garver sat on the back burner over the off-season with the two former players receiving the spotlight only when they signed extensions during the start of spring training.

Perhaps they should have been focused on more as Kepler broke out with a 4.4 fWAR season, Polanco had a 4.0 fWAR season, and Garver turned into Mike Piazza and put up 3.9 fWAR in just 93 games. Now also armed with Luis Arráez at second base, who looks to be Tony Gwynn 2.0, the Twins have a formidable core of young position players all either in pre-arbitration, just starting arbitration, or already extended for a number of years.

The next step will be to figure out whether Eddie Rosario has a future on the team, as he put up his worst full season fWAR total with his bat and defense both regressing. With Alex Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach looking to make a potential impact soon, Rosario may be on the move as the Twins look to upgrade their starting pitching.

2. A flexible bullpen is a good bullpen
Take a good look at the names in the bullpen to start the season and the names that were there in the end and try not to get a hearty chuckle out of it. Of all the pitchers on the Twins’ ALDS roster, only Taylor Rogers and Trevor May started the season with the major league team.

Players like Zack Littell, Cody Stashak, and Tyler Duffey joined the team from Triple A and made major impacts over the season before eventually finding themselves on a postseason roster. On the flip side, relievers like Matt Magill, Blake Parker, and Adalberto Mejía were on the team during the start of the season but were all victims of the DFA hammer as they were not effective enough in the Twins’ eyes and were shown the door.

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But more than their sporadic effectiveness was the ultimate sin of not having any minor league options remaining. These days, the 25-man roster is stretched to the point where it becomes more of a 28-man roster, as relievers with options are shipped to the minors in return for more relievers with options as teams simply can’t employ enough fresh arms at the same time under the current roster rules. The end result was almost a clean sweep as the Twins rid themselves of arms without options in favor of young relievers. With those new players in the mix, the Twins’ bullpen peaked.

The Twins’ bullpen ranked second in the majors in reliever fWAR from August until the end of the season thanks in part to addition Sergio Romo and great performances from those aforementioned young relievers. Now the Twins have a solid core of Taylor Rogers, Trevor May, Tyler Duffey, Cody Stashak, and Zack Littell with an opportunity to mold their bullpen into something more.

3. The starting rotation is never complete
Perhaps no part of the team in 2019 was more in sync with the general plot of a Michael Bay movie than the starting rotation. At times it was flashy and awe-inspiring, at others it was dull and joyless. In total, it was a decent 5/10 that I would like to never see again.

From the start of the season until June, the Twins’ starting rotation was third in baseball with a 3.55 ERA, and while there were some peripherals that suggested regression, it seemed like they had the tools to succeed. There was a lull in the middle of the season and then from August onward the Twins ranked 19th in baseball by starting pitching ERA.

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Reasons for this included the Michael Pineda suspension, the regression of Martín Pérez, and the health issues Kyle Gibson faced. Jake Odorizzi and José Berríos remained anchors in the rotation, but the deck of starting pitching cards shuffled consistently. Devin Smeltzer, Lewis Thorpe, and Randy Dobnak did their best to glue it together down the stretch. Ultimately it was too little too late and the weakness reared its ugly head during the postseason, as Dobnak started Game 2 of the ALDS. It went quite poorly.

The Pineda suspension could not have been anticipated and was possibly the worst-case scenario for the rotation, but it brings us back to the eyebrow-raising decision made when the Twins did nothing before the trade deadline to upgrade a rotation that was starting to show signs of breaking down.

Not only that, but when the draft pick compensation was removed from Dallas Keuchel, the Twins decided to hold their ground. Not too long afterward, a quality starter quickly went from a luxury to a necessity. Going forward, the Twins should act more swiftly in regard to rotation concerns and build depth to handle such events.

4. Clubhouse chemistry is crucial
This one is about 70% speculation on my part simply because I have never been in the Twins clubhouse and have no clue what the personal relationships are like there. From watching the team play, listening to Rocco Baldelli and Nelson Cruz, and seeing how the players responded to adversity, however, it appears the 2019 Twins team was a close-knit bunch who got along quite well.

Contrast that with the 2018 team that employed two notably salty dogs in Lance Lynn and Logan Morrison, who both seemed none too pleased about how their respective free agencies went. Throw on top of that a few trades that saw some favorites leave town and, well, it seemed that the clubhouse chemistry was like oil and water.

This year, however, story after story poured out about how well the group got along and how cohesive they were on a day-to-day basis. From Rocco’s calm stoicism to Derek Shelton and “LAF” to Nelson Cruz’s naps and then to Marwin González facetiming Michael Pineda and Byron Buxton while celebrating the division title, each report indicated that this was a group playing together instead of for themselves and that may have been a major reason for success.

Marwin called Big Mike! This team. #MnTwins

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Wherever this is stemming from, hopefully the team chemistry is systemic and something that continues even as old players leave and new players join.

Now armed with this knowledge, it will be interesting to see how the front office runs the off-season. I’d ask for more but we all know what hope brings us Minnesota sports fans.

Martin Perez
Pérez suffered a similar in-season drop to Gibson, though the start to the ex-Ranger’s year was stronger. From June 1 to the end of the year, Pérez posted a 5.93 ERA, 5.17 FIP, and minus-1.54 WPA, though he never fell out of the starting rotation. As Kyle pointed out earlier this week, Pérez has a $500,000 buyout for the $7 million option year of his contract, and the Twins making that buyout is a move that should be expected.

Kohl Stewart
Appearing in just nine games in 2019, Stewart finished the year with a 6.39 ERA and 6.06 FIP, allowing five home runs and walking eight while striking out 10. Despite the Twins cycling the back of their rotation throughout the summer, Stewart never started a game after May, and the organization moved him into a relief role where he continued to struggle. Although he pitched adequately in 2018, Stewart does not appear to be a player who has a role on the Twins moving forward; and even though he is just 25, it’s not implausible at all that the team moves on from the former fourth-overall pick.

Ryne Harper
Harper’s excellent spring was a wonderful story, his earning a spot on the 25-man roster was even better, and the start to his season appeared the capstone. But as more teams saw Harper’s curveballs, opponents began to hit them, and Harper was eventually dropped from the active roster, before being brought back as part of September call-ups. As Harper has been reassigned to the minors and was 30 years old during his rookie season, it’s arguable that the Twins will move on from him in an attempt to go younger at the bullpen. However, it’s also possible that the team hopes he returns to his spring form. If nothing else, it only costs a 40-man roster spot at this point to see. (Harper is the player on the list I’m least sure about.)