Phillies considering a six-man starting rotation

AP Photo/Chris O'Meara

Rather than choose between Vincent Velasquez and Adam Morgan for the fifth and final spot in the starting rotation, the Phillies might just go with a six-man rotation, Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports. As Salisbury mentions, however, such a decision would leave the Phillies with less bench depth, something manager Pete Mackanin might not want to deal with.

Jeremy Hellickson, Aaron Nola, Charlie Morton, and Jerad Eickhoff are assured rotation spots. Eickhoff started on Tuesday after recovering from a fractured right thumb and pitched well, appearing as if he can get to full strength by the time the regular season begins.

Velasquez, 23, came to the Phillies from the Astros in the Ken Giles trade over the winter. He debuted last season, making seven starts and 12 relief appearances for the Astros, compiling a 4.37 ERA with a 58/21 K/BB ratio over 55 2/3 innings. The Phillies like Velasquez in a starting role at the moment, but some scouts think he could succeed in a high-leverage relief role as well.

Morgan, 26, also debuted last season, posting a 4.48 ERA with a 49/17 K/BB ratio over 84 1/3 innings for the Phillies. He doesn’t have nearly as much upside, but if the Phillies were to choose him for the fifth spot, it would allow them to give Velasquez a bit more seasoning at Triple-A.

RHP Fairbanks, Rays agree to 3-year, $12 million contract

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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.