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Three Rays players make principled stand on pre-arbitration pay

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The past week or so has seen some interesting news regarding players not yet eligible for arbitration. The Pirates reportedly wanted to cut the salary of ace Gerrit Cole, and later attributed that to a system miscalculation. Mets ace Jacob deGrom didn’t sign his 2016 contract out of protest, believing that $607,000 was an underpay.

Now we learn, via Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, that three members of the Rays have also taken principled stands — refusing to sign their 2016 contracts — regarding their predetermined 2016 salaries, as they are not yet eligible for arbitration. Those players are closer Brad Boxberger, starter Jake Odorizzi, and outfielder Kevin Kiermaier. Boxberger and Odorizzi took pay cuts while Kiermaier got a very modest raise. Topkin notes that they were advised by their agents to make such a stand. Boxberger is represented by the Boras Corporation, Odorizzi by Arland Sports, and Kiermaier by Reynolds Sports. The specific changes in pay by player:

  • Boxberger: $521,400 in 2015, $519,200 in 2016 (-$2,200)
  • Odorizzi: $522,000 in 2015, $520,700 in 2016 (-$1,300)
  • Kiermaier: $513,800 in 2015, $514,400 in 2016 (+$600)

As noted when deGrom protested, one is left to wonder if the pay of pre-arb players will be a topic of discussion when the next Collective Bargaining Agreement is negotiated after the season. These players are, certainly, underpaid relative to their peers, especially when performance is taken into account.

Boxberger, 27, has a career 2.94 ERA with 44 saves and a 235/83 K/BB ratio in 177 1/3 innings of relief over parts of four seasons with the Rays. He led the American League with 41 saves last year, his first as a full-time closer.

Odorizzi, 25, made a significant improvement last season, finishing with a 3.35 ERA and a 150/46 K/BB ratio in 169 1/3 innings across 28 starts, his second as a full-time starter.

Kiermaier, 25, hit a solid .263/.298/.420 with 10 home runs, 40 RBI, 62 runs scored, and 18 stolen bases in 535 plate appearances. But perhaps more importantly, Kiermaier was arguably the best defensive player in baseball at any position last year. He won the American League Gold Glove along with outfielders Kole Calhoun and Yoenis Cespedes.

Michael Kopech has opted out of the 2020 season

Kopech has opted out
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Michael Kopech has opted out of the 2020 season. The White Sox starter informed the team of his decision today, and the team issued a press release to that affect a few minutes ago.

The statement from general manager Rick Hahn. said “we recognize that reaching this decision is incredibly difficult for any competitive athlete, and our organization is understanding and supportive. We will work with Michael to assure his development continues throughout 2020, and we look forward to welcoming him back into our clubhouse for the 2021 season.”

Kopech, 24, has only four big league starts under his belt, all coming in late August and early September of 2018, but after a strong spring training he was likely to make Chicago’s rotation at some point in the 2020 season after sitting out all of 2019 following Tommy John surgery. Kopech was among the players sent to Chicago from the Red Sox in the Chris Sale trade back in December 2016. Others involved in the deal included Yoán Moncada, Victor Diaz, and Luis Alexander Basabe.

Now, however, Kopech has opted out.