Professional baseball player excoriated for attempting to get into baseball shape during the offseason

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As any HBT reader knows, there is a cottage industry devoted to stories about baseball players getting into shape in the offseason. Claims are made about workout regimens, photos of slimmed-down or bulked-up players are posted to social media and the notion that so-and-so is in The Best Shape of His Life is used, almost uniformly, as a means of either praising a player for his work ethic or suggesting that, perhaps, his recent struggles are a thing of the past and that he’ll be newly productive in the coming year.

But for one player, reports that he is working out and trying to best prepare himself for the upcoming season are evidence that he is a conniving and manipulative S.O.B. and just what in the HELL is he trying to pull?!  Ladies and Gentlemen, Bob Klapisch:

Surely Alex Rodriguez had a reason for recently posting Instagram pictures of himself hitting in the cage and taking grounders. A-Rod was sending a message to the Yankees, no mystery there. The real question is whether he thinks he can change anyone’s mind about playing third base – or just playing, period . . . Is that why those pictures found their way to Instagram? To let Joe Girardi know it’s going to be an uncomfortable camp?

The Instagram pictures in question can be seen here. There are only two of them (other workout pictures there are from a year ago). In one he is taking groundballs, with the caption “back where I started.” Referring quite clearly to Christopher Columbus High School, on whose field he is taking said grounders. The other is him in a batting cage, with the caption “Starting the year in the cage.”

The fallout to these pictures as been comical. In addition to Kalpisch’s conviction here that A-Rod is trying to cause trouble are stories from the other New York tabloids about how “A-Rod didn’t get the memo” that he’s not the Yankees starting third baseman anymore, and thus him taking some grounders MUST be evidence of either his stupidity or his manipulation. This despite the fact the writers of these stories all acknowledge that Rodriguez, even if he is not the Yankees’ starting third baseman, may serve as a backup option for Chase Headley at third and, if injuries or other things happen, may be asked to play some first base.

Alex Rodriguez is a professional baseball player. He is under contract. There is a chance that he may play some defense in the coming year, even if that’s not he’ll be asked to do on a regular basis. What’s more, he’s been out of baseball for a while and is getting old for a baseball player, which one would think necessitates being in the best shape he can possibly manage simply to hold his own. It would be a story if he was not working out. That the fact that he is working out is now a story tells you way more about the people writing about him than it tells about him.

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.