Desmond Jennings no sure thing to replace Carl Crawford

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For the past year or so most people have assumed that the Rays would replace Carl Crawford in left field with top prospect Desmond Jennings, a 23-year-old speedster who’s drawn frequent comparisons to Crawford while coming up through the minors.

However, according to Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times “the most likely scenario” for the Rays’ outfield on Opening Day is B.J. Upton in center field flanked by Matt Joyce in left field and Ben Zobrist in right field.

Nothing is set in stone yet, of course. Topkin writes that Jennings “will get a long spring chance to show if he’s ready” and if the Rays feel they need Zobrist more as an infielder the path would be pretty clear for Jennings to make the Opening Day roster.

Jennings got his first taste of the majors in September, going 4-for-21 (.190), but prior to that he had a relatively underwhelming season at Triple-A by hitting .278 with a .362 on-base percentage and .393 slugging percentage in 109 games. He did swipe 37 bases while being caught just four times and posted a solid 67/47 K/BB ratio at Durham.

RHP Fairbanks, Rays agree to 3-year, $12 million contract

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Dave Nelson/USA TODAY Sports
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Reliever Pete Fairbanks and the Tampa Bay Rays avoided arbitration when they agreed Friday to a three-year, $12 million contract that could be worth up to $24.6 million over four seasons.

The deal includes salaries of $3,666,666 this year and $3,666,667 in each of the next two seasons. The Rays have a $7 million option for 2026 with a $1 million buyout.

His 2024 and 2025 salaries could increase by $300,000 each based on games finished in the previous season: $150,000 each for 35 and 40.

Tampa Bay’s option price could increase by up to $6 million, including $4 million for appearances: $1 million each for 60 and 70 in 2025; $500,000 for 125 from 2023-25 and $1 million each for 135, 150 and 165 from 2023-25. The option price could increase by $2 million for games finished in 2025: $500,000 each for 25, 30, 35 and 40.

Fairbanks also has a $500,000 award bonus for winning the Hoffman/Rivera reliever of the year award and $200,000 for finishing second or third.

The 29-year-old right-hander is 11-10 with a 2.98 ERA and 15 saves in 111 appearances, with all but two of the outings coming out of the bullpen since being acquired by the Rays from the Texas Rangers in July 2019.

Fairbanks was 0-0 with a 1.13 ERA in 24 appearances last year after beginning the season on the 60-day injured list with a right lat strain.

Fairbanks made his 2022 debut on July 17 and tied for the team lead with eight saves despite being sidelined more than three months. In addition, he is 0-0 with a 3.60 ERA in 12 career postseason appearances, all with Tampa Bay.

He had asked for a raise from $714,400 to $1.9 million when proposed arbitration salaries were exchanged Jan. 13, and the Rays had offered for $1.5 million.

Fairbanks’ agreement was announced two days after left-hander Jeffrey Springs agreed to a $31 million, four-year contract with Tampa Bay that could be worth $65.75 million over five seasons.

Tampa Bay remains scheduled for hearings with right-handers Jason Adam and Ryan Thompson, left-hander Colin Poche, third baseman Yandy Diaz and outfielder Harold Ramirez.