Rays sign Pete Fairbanks to extension

The Rays announced Friday afternoon that they had signed the reliever. Pete Fairbanks to a three-year guarantee with a 2026 club option. The deal buys his remaining three seasons of arbitration eligibility, while the club option covers what would have been his first season as a free agent.

Fairbanks, a Republik Sports client, is guaranteed $12 million over the next three seasons (including a $1 million purchase on the 2026 option). Fairbanks will be paid $3.666 million annually between 2023 and 2025, while the option has a base value of $7 million. The deal also contains various incentives and escalators that could top out at $24.6 million over four seasons.

Fairbanks and the Rays had yet to establish a salary for the upcoming season, having requested a figure of $1.9MM his first time through the arbitration process, while the team countered $1.5MM. Fairbanks would have been in line for another pair of raises in 2024 and 2025, but those salaries are now locked in. In exchange for a guarantee that could err on the high end of what he might have earned year after year, Fairbanks will give the Rays control of his first season as a free agent — his season at age 32.

The 29-year-old Fairbanks, acquired from the Rangers in a straight trade for infielder/outfielder Nick Solak in 2019, has emerged as one of the Rays’ top late-inning options. Tampa Bay doesn’t normally field a set closer, but Fairbanks is among the favorites to lead the club in saves next season. Over the past three years, he has pitched with a 2.70 ERA with a 33.8% strikeout rate and a 9.7% walk rate in 93 1/3 innings.

However, injuries have prevented Fairbanks from working a full innings slate during a 162-game season. In 2021, he twice landed on the disabled list with shoulder problems, first a rotator cuff strain, then a bout of inflammation, missing about a month each time. He missed more than three months of the 2022 season due to a strain in the side.

Although there are some durability concerns, Fairbanks’ 2022 campaign, in particular, illustrates the potentially dominant arm the Rays are securing in this deal. Fairbanks averaged a dizzying 99.2 mph in his heater while pitching to a 1.13 ERA with a comical 43.7% strikeout rate, a brilliant 3.4% walk rate and a well-above-average 53.3% ground ball rate. He also posted a 17% swinging strike rate that ranked 16th out of 546 pitchers who threw at least 20 innings in 2022. Fairbanks didn’t allow a run in his final 22 innings of the season.

It’s the second multiyear extension this week for the Rays, who traded arbitration figures with seven players two weeks ago on trade day. Left handed jeffrey springs agreed to a four-year, $31 million contract that bought two arbitration seasons and two free agent years earlier in the week. The Rays, like many other clubs, have taken a file-and-trial approach to arbitration in recent years, effectively cutting off talk of one-year deals once the numbers are exchanged. Typically, those clubs will remain open to reaching multi-year agreements if the player is willing, and otherwise the typical outcome is an arbitration hearing.

The Rays still have five other players with cold cases. infielder yandy diaz (requested $6.3MM to Rays’ $5.5MM), first baseman/outfielder Harold Ramirez ($2.2MM vs. $1.9MM), lefty colin pocket ($1.3 million vs. $1.175 million), right ryan thompson ($1.2MM vs. $1MM) and right jason adam ($1.775MM vs. $1.55MM) all traded figures with the team on Jan. 13 after failing to come to an agreement on a year’s salary figure.

With the recent spate of extensions over the past year plus (Wander Franco, Tyler Glasnow, Manuel Margot and Springs also agreed to multi-year deals) and the Rays’ signing of Zach Eflin to a three-year contract, Tampa Bay is in the rare position to have a decent amount of cash already on the books two years from now. The Rays already have $65.666 million guaranteed for seven players for the 2024 season, and that’s before factoring in what is currently slated to be 13 arbitration-eligible players, league minimum players to fill out the pool and, of course, , any upcoming addition via exchange. or free agency for the next 12 months or so.

The Rays have never opened a season with a payroll higher than last year’s total of $83.8MM. That won’t change in 2023, barring an unexpected late addition to the roster, but barring a major trade or trades, they seem certain to set a new franchise record for player roster in 2024. And with each of Díaz, Ramírez, Poche , Thompson and Adam still unresolved, Tampa Bay may yet be able to add a few more guaranteed salaries to that ledger by forging additional multi-year pacts with the currently outstanding members of its arbitration class.

Jeff Passan of ESPN was the first to report that the Rays and Fairbanks had agreed to a three-year, $12 million guarantee with a club option for the fourth year. Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported the base value of the option and the purchase. marc topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reported the maximum contract value and the specific salary breakdown.

Image courtesy of USA Today Sports.

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