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Rays extend Jeffrey Springs – MLB trade rumors

The Rays announced they have signed the left-hander Jeffrey Springs for a four-year contract extension. The southpaw will be guaranteed $31MM over the course of the deal, but there are also incentives and a $15MM club option for 2027 with a $750K buyout. If Springs hits all the incentive and Cy Young award escalators and the club takes the option, he will earn $65.75MM over five years. The exact details of these incentives and escalators are not known. He will earn a salary of $4MM this year, $5.25MM next year, followed by $10.5MM in each of the following two seasons. Springs was set to reach free agency after 2024, so this could allow the Rays to secure him for three additional seasons if they end up triggering that option.

Springs, 30, has had a unique baseball journey. A 30th-round draft pick of the Rangers, he drew little fanfare from prospect evaluators in his first few professional seasons. Although he got some rotation work for a few years, the Rangers used him exclusively in relief in 2018 to good effect. He threw 56 2/3 innings between Double-A and Triple-A that year. The 4.13 ERA might not seem particularly impressive, but it was certainly inflated by a .438 batting average on balls in play. He kept his walks down to a reasonable 8.1% while striking out an incredible 41.7% of those at-bats. He made his MLB debut that year, throwing 32 innings over 18 appearances with a 3.38 ERA.

He took a step back in 2019, missing a few months with left biceps tendinitis and posting a 6.40 ERA. Texas designated him for assignment in 2020 and then traded him to the Red Sox for Sam Travis. The change of scenery didn’t help Springs get back on track as he posted a 7.08 ERA in the shortened 2020 campaign. He was designated for assignment again and then returned to the Rays next door Chris Mazza for prospects Ronaldo Hernandez and Nick Sogard.

The move to Tampa seems to have been what Springs needed, as his results have completely turned around since then. He recorded a 3.43 ERA over 43 appearances in 2021, striking out 35.2% of batters while walking just 7.8% of them. In 2022, he started in the bullpen, but the club began stretching him to a starter as the season progressed. He responded well to the change, eventually throwing 135 1/3 innings with a 2.46 ERA, 26.2% strikeout rate, 5.6% walk rate and 40.9% ground ball rate.

After a few years of bickering and fighting, it’s not a huge surprise that Springs would jump at the chance to lock in some life-changing cash here. He reached arbitration for the first time in 2022, but made just $947.5K, a slight bump over the $700,000 league minimum. He was predicted by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to jump to $3MM this year, though he and the club did not reach an agreement before the filing deadline earlier this month. He posted a $3.55MM figure, while the Rays posted $2.7MM. Instead, he’ll make $4MM and lock in some eight-figure salaries in the future.

For the Rays, they clearly believe Springs is capable of continuing as an effective starter, although there is some risk here. Springs had excellent results in 2022, but it’s still only one season, and it wasn’t even a full season. As mentioned, Springs began the year in the bullpen and wasn’t stretched until late May. He also went on the injured list for a few weeks in July due to right lower leg tightness. Concerns aside, the Rays are confident enough in left field that they are willing to gamble on him.

For a low-spending team like the Rays, extensions are an important part of having talent on the roster. Since they don’t usually trade at the top of the free agent market, they have to keep guys around by locking them up until they get closer to the open market and increase their earnings. In recent years they have given expansions to players like Kevin Kiermaier, Blake Snell, Brandon Lowe, Walking Franco, Manuel Margot and Tyler Glasnowwith Springs now joining them on the list.

This won’t have a big impact on the club’s payroll for 2023, but will add some decent commitments for 2025 and 2026. The club now has three players locked into the previous season with Franco and Zach Eflin on the books there, along with a club option for Lowe. In exchange for putting that money on the table, the Rays now have arguably the most rotation stability they’ve had in years. Recent seasons have seen them rely on bullpen play and openers to get through a season, but they now have Springs, Glasnow, Eflin, Drew Rasmussen and Shane McClanahanwith depth options such as Yonny Chirinos, Luis Patino and Josh Fleming. Most of this group is still in their pre-arbitration years, giving the club many years of affordable control. Neither is slated for free agency after this year, and Glasnow is now the only one hitting the open market after 2024. The club also has one of the best pitching prospects in the sport in Taj Bradleywho finished last year at Triple-A and could make his debut this year.

Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times first reported in four years the agreement and many of that details. Joel Sherman of the New York Post was the first with year-to-year salary distribution.

Image courtesy of USA Today Sports.

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