Oscar Taveras is hitting and Mike Matheny is happy

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Oscar Taveras is playing and playing well lately, easing Cardinals fans’ concerns about manager Mike Matheny frequently benching the 22-year-old rookie for lesser talents, and now Matheny is full of praise for the work Taveras has put in to get better.

Matheny told Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post Dispatch that Taveras has made “huge adjustments” since a slow start to his MLB career, adding:

He’s really worked hard in the cage with [hitting coaches John Mabry and David Bell] on his approach and shortening his swing a bit. Even his outs were pretty loud. He’s definitely taking steps in the right direction.

It’s too small of a sample size to get truly excited yet, but Taveras is in a 9-for-22 stretch right now and has hit a combined .280 with just 13 strikeouts in his last 100 plate appearances. And perhaps most importantly Matheny is playing him and saying positive things about him, which is a big change from just a couple weeks ago.

Taveras was a consensus top-10 prospect coming into each of the past two seasons and the Cardinals’ front office cleared the way for him to take over as an everyday player–and future middle-of-the-lineup force–by trading Allen Craig to the Red Sox.

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.