Please Fredi, stop using your worst relievers in close games

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Let’s rank the Braves’ relievers in order from best to cannon fodder, shall we:

Craig Kimbrel
Jonny Venters
Eric O’Flaherty
Kris Medlen
Cristhian Martinez
Livan Hernandez
Chad Durbin

There’s nothing controversial there, right. One could argue about the order of the last two, but really, no one can possibly be that bored.

Now let’s look at the innings those seven guys have thrown during the Braves’ 0-4 skid to start the season:

Craig Kimbrel – 0
Jonny Venters – 1
Eric O’Flaherty – 1
Kris Medlen – 3
Cristhian Martinez – 2
Livan Hernandez – 3 2/3
Chad Durbin – 2

Isn’t there something wrong with that picture? Every game the Braves have played has been close at some point. They lost the first 1-0, the second 4-2 with Hernandez giving up a run in the seventh, the third 7-5 after a gallant comeback attempt in the seventh and eighth innings.

It was Monday night’s game that manager Fredi Gonzalez employed a particularly atrocious strategy. The top three relievers are all rested and ready to go, yet down 4-3 to the Astros after five, Gonzalez picked Hernandez, who gave up two runs in two innings. Durbin then came in during the eighth and gave up two more runs to finish any hopes of a late comeback.

And that’s just ridiculous. No, the Braves never did score again tonight, so looked at that way, Gonzalez didn’t cost them anything by going with his worst arms. Still, it’d be nice if he started playing to win one of these days.

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.