Nationals still in great position for 2015

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Maybe it’s still too soon to take solace, but the Nationals have more answers than questions headed into the winter.

Ex-closer Rafael Soriano excepted, the entire pitching staff is due back next year, including the NL-best rotation of Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister, Gio Gonzalez and Tanner Roark. The team might want to talk extension with Zimmermann and Fister, both of whom are free agents after next season, but they won’t have to go starter shopping. Soriano almost certainly will be allowed to walk and Ross Detwiler could also be traded or set free, but the Nationals will still be in good hands in the pen with Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard, Aaron Barrett and company.

It was the Nationals’ lineup that was the problem during the NLDS, but at least the team’s two most important players going forward — Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon — were the two who shined versus the Giants. The Nationals will probably say goodbye to Adam LaRoche, even though he was such an important part of this year’s lineup. Ryan Zimmerman needs to be a full-time first baseman because of his shoulder problems.

That leaves the only question mark as second base. One imagines the Nationals will try to re-sign Asdrubal Cabrera, who is a better option than any others out there in free agency. A trade is also a possibility. The Rays would probably be open to discussing Ben Zobrist, and the Nationals have some intriguing outfielders and hard-throwing right-hander Blake Treinan to use in talks.

But it should really be a rather quiet offseason for the Nationals overall. They’ll enter next spring as the favorites to win the NL East and probably as the favorites to represent the NL in the World Series, though we all know how well that can work out.

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.