MLB enters ninth work stoppage in league history

At 12:01 a.m. EST on Dec. 2, Major League Baseball owners unanimously voted for a lockout of the players, starting the ninth work stoppage in league history, the first in 26 years.

This happened just two minutes after the expiration of the most recent collective bargaining agreement between the league and players’ union that was signed on Dec. 1, 2016.

As previously mentioned, the last work stoppage happened 26 years ago, lasting from August 12, 1994 – April 2, 1995. Nearly 950 games and the entire 1994 postseason, including the 1994 World Series, were cancelled as a result.

Major League Baseball became the first major professional US sports league to lose an entire postseason as a result of a labor dispute from the 1994-95 players’ strike, but this is a completely different beast.

This time around, it was the owners who locked out the players from work as they and the players’ union look to find a common ground on a new collective bargaining agreement.

The main reason for the current work stoppage is economics. Baseball, unlike other professions, is one with a limited time of employment, usually a maximum of two decades as a player.

Players want to make as much money as possible in the short time they’re playing baseball, so getting paid more early on in their careers and having the ability to enter free agency at a younger age is what they hope to accomplish.

Alongside that, the players are looking to increase team salaries in order to prevent things like tanking so they can get paid what they believe they’re worth every season instead of cost-cutting measures often taken by owners.

On the other side, owners want to have the ability to control players for longer, including things like manipulating service time, to not have to pay as much over time.

This is a money-making business as much as it is a game and owners are looking to make the most return back on their investment, so however they can do that, they will.

As previously mentioned above, tanking is a hot button topic as it’s not only been something of note in MLB, but in other major professional sports leagues as well.

The hope is that in the future, with measures like a draft lottery or salary floor/salary cap, MLB will be able to maintain league-wide competitive balance. A salary cap is something the players vehemently are opposing, instead favoring a a luxury tax threshold increase to give them the opportunity to make more.

Expanded playoffs, universal DH, pitch clocks and additional rule changes are among the other things that will be under discussion during the lockout.

That includes questions about the baseball itself after the foreign substance issue escalated to a climax during the 2021 season and now after the season when it came out that MLB used different baseballs for more notable primetime games as opposed to others.

As part of the lockout, trades may not be made, free agents may not be signed, players have no access to MLB facilities and no contact between team employees and players is allowed during this period.

Something else of note is that MLB.com has removed all current player photos and articles, only including articles/photos of retired or active players not playing in MLB.

This has caused some weird instances, like articles about this season’s college football bowl games taking place in MLB stadiums. You’ll find more current information about teams like NC State or SMU than you will about active MLB players.

We don’t know how long this lockout will last and whether or not it will affect the 2022 MLB season, but the hope is that something will be reached so that games aren’t cancelled as a result.

Stay tuned for more news on the lockout over the offseason. We’ll be sure to report as new reports come out.

Rays, Choi agree to one-year deal, tender 13 more players

Just hours before MLB’s non-tender deadline on Tuesday, the Rays re-signed first baseman Ji-Man Choi to a one-year, $3.2 million deal as reported by Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.

Choi suffered through injuries during the 2021 season, hitting .229/.348/.411 in 83 games with a 0.9 bWAR, 116 OPS+, 11 home runs and 45 RBI.

The Rays and the fanbase are hoping Choi can return to the levels of production that he put up in 2019, where he posted a 2.1 bWAR and 120 OPS+. If fully healthy for 2022, those numbers are well within reach.

Choi avoided the non-tender deadline entirely with his one-year deal, but the Rays had decisions to make for the arbitration-eligible players remaining on the 40-man roster.

The Rays ended up tendering contracts to the remaining 13 players as the non-tender deadline approached at 8 p.m. EST on Tuesday.

For those that don’t know what the non-tender deadline is, it relates to all players on the 40-man roster with fewer than six years of service time.

MLB teams can either tender them a contract for the next season or non-tender them, immediately making that player a free agent.

Notable players on the list above include Tyler Glasnow, Austin Meadows, Manuel Margot, Andrew Kittredge and Yandy Díaz.

Rays sign Kluber, Raley

Things got exciting on the free agency side of Major League Baseball with the impending lockout looming in early December.

The Rays were part of that frenzy as Tampa Bay ended up signing two pitchers, Corey Kluber and Brooks Raley, before what is now the ninth work-related stoppage in league history.

On Nov. 28, Rays signed Kluber to a one-year, $8 million deal plus up to $5 million in incentives and his signing was made official in a press conference on Dec. 1.

Kluber, 35, went 5-3 in 16 starts last season with the New York Yankees, recording a 1.4 bWAR, 112 ERA+, 3.82 ERA and 82 strikeouts in 80 innings pitched.

A significant right shoulder muscle strain sidelined Kluber for three months, and injury concern was a question coming into the 2021 season after he had started just eight games the past two seasons combined.

While starting just 16 games, Kluber showed glimpses of his former two-time Cy Young self, especially on May 19, when he threw the first no-hitter of his career against his former team, the Texas Rangers.

The Rays are taking a calculated risk on Kluber like they did Chris Archer and Michael Wacha last season, spending what could be the same amount of money on one pitcher as they did two.

However, having a veteran pitcher on the staff like Kluber is going to pay dividends compared to the latter two in 2022, hoping all goes according to plan.

Just a day later, the Rays signed Raley to a two-year, $10 million deal with a third-year club option. The 33-year old left hander has pitched for the Cincinnati Reds and Houston Astros over the past two seasons after pitching five years for the Lotte Giants of the Korea Baseball Organization.

Raley is part of a movement of MLB players making a name for themselves in South Korea or Japan before coming back to the states and he brings with him a great pitcher arsenal.

Over 58 outings in 2021, Raley struck out 65 batters over 49 innings pitched, posting an 11.9 K/9 rate and a 3.27 FIP. Under the coaching of Kyle Snyder, Raley should be a great fit in the bullpen for the Rays, especially since he’s a left-hander.

If Tampa Bay gets back Jalen Beeks and Colin Poche back for the 2022 season, those three are going to be important pieces for this team.

Joey Wendle traded to Marlins

The Rays were involved in trade talks with multiple players throughout the day. With Corey Kluber needing a roster spot, a move was made.

Just hours before the MLB non-tender deadline, the Tampa Bay Rays traded 2021 All-Star infielder Joey Wendle to the Miami Marlins for outfield prospect Kameron Misner.

The Wendle trade is the latest in a series of moves the Marlins have made to improve their team, after signing Avisaíl García and acquiring Jacob Stallings from the Pirates.

Wendle arrives fresh off his first All-Star Game selection and joins an infield with multiple veterans including former teammate Jesús Aguilar.

The move helps solve a potential logjam in the infield for the Rays. This frees time for young talented players Taylor Walls and Vidal Bruján, along with Yandy Díaz, who will have more time at third base.

Outfielder Kameron Misner goes to a very talented Rays farm in the deal. The former Missouri Tiger was the 35th overall selection in the 2019 draft and slashed .253/.355/.433 in A+/AA last season.

MLB Free Agent Frenzy: Mets sign Scherzer, Tigers land Baez

Free agents have been signing at an unheard of pace this offseason and two more big dominoes fell just before the end of November as Max Scherzer and Javier Baez have both found new homes.

Scherzer, 37, signed a three-year, $130 million deal with the New York Mets, setting a new record for the highest annual average value on a contract at $43.3 million.

The right-hander finished third in NL Cy Young voting this season, his sixth top-three finish in Cy Young voting in his career, going 15-4 with a 2.46 ERA, 5.2 bWAR, 166 ERA+ and 236 strikeouts over 179.1 innings pitched.

Scherzer split time between the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers, being traded along with Trea Turner to Los Angeles at last season’s trade deadline.

It’s an incredibly risky move for New York as previously mentioned before, Scherzer is 37, but he hasn’t shown signs of slowing down in recent years.

We move from a current Met to a now-former Met in shortstop/second baseman Javier Baez, who inked a six-year, $140 million deal with the Detroit Tigers on Tuesday.

Baez, who turns 29 on Dec. 1, spent time with the Chicago Cubs and Mets last season and was traded to New York at the trade deadline as part of Chicago’s massive fire sale in 2021.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 17: Javier Baez #23 of the New York Mets looks on during the second inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citi Field on September 17, 2021 in the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

His eight-year career with the Cubs abruptly ended, but he had a strong partial season with the Mets, hitting .299/.371/.515 in 47 games with a 1.9 bWAR, 141 OPS+, nine home runs and 22 RBI.

Overall, Baez hit .265/.319/.494 in 138 games with a 4.5 WAR, 117 OPS+, 31 home runs and 87 RBI. A major concern for him moving forward is his high strikeout rate and low walk rate, but Baez has been known as a free swinger since coming up to MLB.

This is the second big free agent splash Detroit has made this offseason after signing left-handed pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez to a five-year, $77 million deal on Nov. 15.

The Mets are expected to be big spenders for the duration of the offseason with owner Steve Cohen getting settled into his second offseason as team owner.

Detroit was one of the surprises of the 2021 MLB season, so there’s a good chance they could continue to make moves to put pressure on the Chicago White Sox in the wide open AL Central.

Texas Rangers commit $500 million to Semien, Seager

Major League Baseball’s hot stove has been piping hot over the past several days and an unlikely team commanding the headlines is the Texas Rangers.

Texas, an apparent sleeping giant, has signed superstars Marcus Semien and Corey Seager to contracts totaling $500 million, nearly equaling what the New York Yankees spent for 10 players during the 2013 offseason.

Semien, 31, signed a seven-year, $175 million contract on Sunday, coming off a career year where he finished third in AL MVP voting, won his first AL Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Award, and received First Team All-MLB honors.

He bet on himself before the 2021 season started, signing a one-year, $18 million deal with the Toronto Blue Jays, and made the most of it, setting a new MLB single-season record for most home runs hit by a second baseman.

Semien’s 7.3 bWAR was also second in the AL behind only Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels, and first among AL position players.

Seager, 27, got the ball rolling in what is one of the most loaded shortstop free agent classes in recent memory, signing a 10-year, $325 million deal with Texas on Monday.

His 2021 season was shortened on May 15 when a pitch hit and fractured his right hand, but 96 games played, Seager hit .306/.394/.521 with a 3.7 bWAR, 145 OPS+, 16 home runs and 57 RBI for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The two-time All-Star has posted two consecutive seasons with over a .900 OPS and 140 OPS+, and if you watched the 2020 postseason, you saw just how dangerous Seager could be playing in Texas.

He and the Dodgers played the NLDS, NLCS and World Series all in Globe Life Field and in 14 postseason games, Seager hit .350 with seven home runs and 19 RBI, capturing NLCS MVP and World Series MVP honors in the process.

The Rangers also bolstered its rotation with the addition of right-hander Jon Gray from the Colorado Rockies on a four-year, $56 million deal, and added a solid outfielder in Kole Calhoun from the Arizona Diamondbacks, who signed a one-year, $5.2 million deal.

The impending work stoppage after the expiration of the current collective bargaining agreement between the players’ union and owners on Dec. 1 has ignited free agency this offseason, and the Rangers don’t seem like they’ll be stopping anytime soon.

Wander Franco signs 11-year extension, largest contract in franchise history

Monday afternoon saw a historic moment in the existence of the Tampa Bay Rays as shortstop Wander Franco officially signed the largest contract in franchise history, an 11-year, $182 million extension.

Franco, the 20-year old phenom who made his MLB debut in June, lived up to all expectations placed on him from the entire baseball community and then some.

As such, he was rewarded handsomely with an 11-year extension with $182 million in guaranteed money and 12th year club option and incentives that could take it up to $223 million in total.

After a rough start to his MLB career, setting aside the home run he hit in his first MLB game, Franco would go on to tie Frank Robinson for the longest on-base streak of any MLB player age 20 or younger, ever, at 43 games.

In doing so, he set the American League record, blowing Mickey Mantle’s 36-game on-base streak out of the water.

He finished the 2021 season hitting .288/.347/.463 in 70 games played with a 2.5 fWAR, 127 wRC+, seven home runs, 39 RBI and 53 runs scored, earning a third-place finish for the 2021 AL Rookie of the Year.

Above is the contract breakdown for Franco’s extension. The 2026 season will be the first where Franco will make over $10 million if he stays past then, he’ll become the first Rays player to make $20 million in one season.

We’ve never seen the Rays spend anywhere close to this amount of money for one player, not even Evan Longoria, as his extension was just $100 million.

Regardless of whether or not Franco will be with the franchise for the full duration of the contract, the commitment from the front office shows a shift in mentality for the future.

If they’re willing to shell out $182 million for one player, then that player must be incredibly special, and we’ll be seeing that play out hopefully over the next decade.

Why Ford Proctor over Blake Hunt?

MLB’s deadline for protecting Rule 5 eligible prospects ended on Friday. The Rays added INF Jonathan Aranda, RHP Calvin Faucher, RHP Tommy Romero, and C/INF Ford Proctor to the 40-man roster, protecting them from the Rule 5 Draft that will take place later this offseason.

One player many considered to be a lock for the Rays to protect, catcher Blake Hunt who was part of the Blake Snell trade last offseason, was left unprotected. So why would the Rays risk letting him go?

A key cog in understanding why Hunt was left unprotected is understanding the Rule 5 draft itself. If a player is selected in the draft, the team they go to is required to either keep that player on the 26-man active roster for the whole season or on the IL for the full season. If they cannot do this, the player is offered back to the team they were drafted from.

Blake Hunt played the majority of the 2021 season in High-A Bowling Green, slashing .225/.307/.427 in 57 games, but his production dipped when he was promoted to Double-A Montgomery. In 17 games with the Biscuits, he hit just .125/.210/.161.

Hunt’s defense needs to improve as well before the Rays really consider moving him up further through their minor league system.

So essentially, Hunt is *right now* a lower-level prospect coming off an underwhelming season. His potential to be the Rays’ catcher of the future is still there, but he has more developing to do before being considered for a 40-man spot.

There are very few teams that could stash him on their major league roster for a full season when he struggled to perform in Hi-A. He will draw interest and may even get taken, but there is a good chance he would’ve ended up with the Rays regardless.

Ford Proctor on the other hand had a higher likelihood of getting taken in the draft. An intriguing INF/C combo, he was taken by the Rays in the 3rd round of the 2018 MLB draft. Proctor has advanced steadily through his MiLB career, spending a full season in each of Low-A, High-A, and Double-A (2021).

Proctor has slashed .268/.374/.393 in his minor league career and shown he can get on base with consistency. His addition to the 40-man roster allows for that continuous progression through the minors, likely spending most of 2022 with Triple-A Durham. His versatility and steady improvements make him a desirable pickup if he was left unprotected.

In summary, both Proctor and Hunt are promising prospects. This decision likely came down to the Rays realizing Proctor was more likely to be taken in the draft and not returned than Hunt is.

Proctor’s ability to play multiple positions would have made it easier for an MLB team to hide him on their roster, as he could be designated a “bench utility guy”. I would not expect Hunt to be taken in the draft, however if he is, I would expect him to return to the Rays at some point.

Brandon Lowe not named Silver Slugger finalist

We might have a slight bias toward Brandon Lowe here at Rays The Roof, but when the news came out on Monday that the second baseman was not named a finalist for the Louisville Slugger Silver Slugger Award, we were noticeably infuriated.

Lowe had one of the best power-hitting seasons of any second baseman in MLB history and tied himself with Carlos Pena for the second-most home runs in a single season in Rays franchise history with 39.

To say Lowe was a surefire winner at second base is simply not true because Marcus Semien had the greatest power-hitting season of any second baseman ever, setting a new single-season record for home runs by a second baseman.

Semien, normally a shortstop, moved to second this season with the Toronto Blue Jays as Bo Bichette is and will be the franchise’s cornerstone shortstop for a while. He might not be a second baseman by trade, but the record will still stand.

Regardless, what Lowe did was remarkable, leading all second baseman in isolated power (ISO), walk rate, expected weighted on-base average (xwOBA) and weighted runs created plus (wRC+).

He was tied for second in fWAR among second baseman in the AL with a 5.2 fWAR, second in OPS, slugging percentage, weighted on-base average (wOBA) and was third in on-base percentage and tied for third in runs scored.

Looking at his numbers overall, Lowe hit .247/.340/.523 with 39 HR, 99 RBI, 31 2B, 97 R, 137 wRC+, 5.2 fWAR, 11.1 walk rate, .277 ISO, .363 wOBA and a .357 xwOBA.

Three of the four finalists were solid picks: the aforementioned Semien, Jose Altuve of the Houston Astros and Jorge Polanco of the Minnesota Twins.

The fourth finalist is where there is a massive problem and even without that, Lowe should have been included in the list. Apparently, the coaches and players who vote in this thought DJ LeMahieu had a better offensive season than Brandon Lowe.

For those who didn’t know, the Silver Slugger Award is presented to the best offensive player at each position in both leagues every season.

LeMahieu was considered a league-average hitter in terms of wRC+. He posted a 100 wRC+, literally the league average. On top of that, he hit .268/.349/.362 with 10 HR, 57 RBI and didn’t lead second baseman in one category this season.

Among qualified AL second baseman, he was seventh in fWAR, t-sixth in wRC+, 10th in ISO, t-ninth in slugging, sixth in wOBA and fourth in xwOBA. His slugging, average and OPS were the lowest in his career since 2014. His average and slugging were the third-worst in his career and his OPS was the fourth-worst.

In the eight seasons where LeMahieu has played 100 games or more, his 160 hits were the fifth-best in his career. His 84 runs scored were only the sixth-best in his career. You get the point.

How Lowe wasn’t named a finalist based on all the information presented above about the player who was voted in over him is legitimately mind-boggling. It doesn’t make any sense and it won’t make any sense, but that’s the beauty of baseball, right?

Well, time to see what other way baseball can screw over Brandon Lowe next. Maybe they’ll just remove him entirely from the history books as a practical joke.

Arozarena, Cruz, Zunino named Silver Slugger Finalists

Despite the Rays suffering an early exit in the 2021 postseason, this past week has brought much-needed positive news to the Tampa Bay area.

On Monday, the Louisville Slugger Silver Slugger Award finalists were announced, and three Rays players: Randy Arozarena, Nelson Cruz and Mike Zunino, were named finalists at their respective positions.

It’s the first Silver Slugger finalist nomination for both Arozarena and Zunino and Cruz, a four-time Silver Slugger winner himself, is a regular during awards season.

2021 was a breakout year for Zunino behind the plate as he set career-highs in home runs, runs scored, slugging percentage, OPS, OPS+, wRC+ and WAR. He hit 33 home runs in just 109 games played, finishing second to only Salvador Perez in homers as a catcher.

However, his numbers averaged out over a full season would rival that of Salvy, who set a new MLB single-season record for most home runs as a catcher in 2021.

Cruz, despite becoming the oldest player in league history to hit 30+ home runs in a season, struggled in a Rays uniform, posting a .725 OPS and 103 OPS+ in 55 games. His numbers in Minnesota were more than enough to nominate him as a finalist for DH.

Arozarena had an impressive first full season in MLB, hitting .274/.356/.459 with 20 home runs, 69 RBI, 32 doubles, 94 runs scored and a 131 OPS+. His 4.2 bWAR was first among all rookies this season.

The most notable and egregious omission of any player, not only on the Rays, but in all of baseball, was Brandon Lowe. Somehow, DJ LeMahieu, who was a league-average/below league-average hitter this season, was nominated over Lowe, but we’ll discuss that in a separate article.

Winners will be announced on MLB Network on Nov. 11 at 6 PM EST.