Portland hosts its last AAA game

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The Beavers haven’t always played baseball in Portland. Minor league baseball took a few years off in the 70s. The team that came back in 1978 later moved to Salt Lake City, occasioning another break in AAA ball before the latest incarnation showed up.  But those few bumps aside, there has been a Pacific Coast League edition of the Portland Beavers since 1903.

Not anymore, though, as the latest edition played its last game last night. The Beavers are losing their ballpark to Major League Soccer next season and will have to find a new home. Tucson is a possibility. So is Lake Elsinore, California. All we know for sure is that the Padres’ AAA team won’t be in Portland next season.

My first thought is to be irked by the fact that someone, somewhere thought that MLS was a better bet for Portland than baseball. My second thought is to scoff at anyone who brings up Portland as a possible landing spot for a relocating Major League Baseball team.  Both thoughts are all about emotion, not reason, however, because this move has very little to do with how much Portland loves baseball and everything to do with economics.

Sure, it would be great if Portland had found room for both the Beavers and the new MLS team, but stadium politics in Oregon have always been dicey, rendering this an either/or situation. Given the league’s relatively low overhead and straight revenue split, a Major League Soccer franchise can be pretty damn lucrative these days. If you had the choice between keeping a minor league baseball team in your park or, alternatively, kicking them out, renovating the place for soccer and getting an MLS team you’d do the latter every time. At least if you were interested in making money. That was Portland’s choice.

The prospect of a major league team would likely change the economics of it all. No, it would not likely be easier to get public money to build a ballpark for, say, the A’s or the Rays or someone that it would have been for the Beavers, but there’s way more money to be made in Major League Baseball than there is in AAA too, so it could probably inspire more private money (assuming Bud Selig and the Lords of Baseball drop their aversion to owner-financed stadiums).  The upshot: the Beavers fleeing has very little to do with Portland’s suitability as a major league city. It’s benefits and flaws remain much the same as they’ve always been.

But yeah, it does suck that there’s no baseball in Portland anymore. Because baseball is, you know, cool.

Jeffrey Springs, Rays agree to $31 million, 4-year contract

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Left-hander Jeffrey Springs became the first of the 33 players who exchanged proposed arbitration salaries with their teams to reach a deal, agreeing Wednesday to a $31 million, four-year contract with the Tampa Bay Rays that could be worth $65.75 million over five seasons.

The 30-year old was among seven Rays who swapped arbitration figures with the team on Jan. 13. He began last season in the bullpen, transitioned to the starting rotation in May and finished 9-5 with a 2.46 ERA in 33 appearances, including 25 starts. He is 14-6 with a 2.70 ERA in 76 outings – 51 of them in relief – since he was acquired from Boston in February 2021.

Springs gets $4 million this year, $5.25 million in 2024 and $10.5 million in each of the following two seasons. Tampa Bay has a $15 million option for 2027 with a $750,000 buyout.

The 2025 and 2026 salaries can escalate by up to $3.75 million each based on innings in 2023-24 combined: $1.5 million for 300, $1 million for 325, $750,000 for 350 and $500,000 for 375. The `25 and ’26 salaries also can escalate based on finish in Cy Young Award voting in `23 and ’24: $2 million for winning, $1.5 million for finishing second through fifth in the voting and $250,000 for finishing sixth through 10th.

Tampa Bay’s option price could escalate based on Cy Young voting in 2025 and 2026: by $2.5 million for winning, $2 million for finishing second through fifth and $500,000 for sixth through 10th.

Springs would get $45.25 million if the option is exercised, $52.75 million with the option and meeting all innings targets and the maximum if he meetings the innings targets and wins two Cy Youngs.

Springs’ ERA last season was the second lowest in franchise history for a pitcher working a minimum of 100 innings. Former Rays ace Blake Snell compiled 1.89 ERA on the way to winning the 2018 AL Cy Young.

In addition to finishing sixth in the AL in ERA, Springs allowed three runs or fewer in 22 of 25 starts and two runs or fewer 17 times. He joined Tampa Bay’s rotation on May 9, gradually increasing his workload over his next six appearances. Springs was 6-3 with a 2.40 ERA in 14 starts after the All-Star break.

Arbitration hearings start next week and the Rays remain with the most players scheduled to appear before three-person panels.

Springs had asked for a raise from $947,500 to $3.55 million and had been offered $2.7 million. Tampa remains scheduled for hearings with right-handers Jason Adam, Pete Fairbanks and Ryan Thompson, left-hander Colin Poche, third baseman Yandy Diaz and outfielder Harold Ramirez.

Tampa Bay also agreed minor league contacts with catcher Gavin Collins and right-hander Jaime Schultz, who will report to major league spring training.

Infielder Austin Shenton and pitchers Anthony Molina and Joe LaSorsa also were invited to big league spring training.