Flashback: here’s how most open tryouts work in professional baseball

John Makely / NBC News
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The Tim Tebow thing is weird and sorta interesting on some meta media/celebrity level. But as you could probably tell from my post on it, I’m a bit irked by it too. Mostly because I strongly suspect that very, very few people, including former athletes, would get the opportunity to have private workouts with major league teams if they possessed Tim Tebow’s baseball pedigree. It makes me wonder what his lot would be if he wasn’t an ESPN personality who has gotten a publicity push that far outstrips his athletic accomplishments over the past several years.

We don’t actually have to wonder that, though. We know what normally happens with such folks: they go to Major League Baseball’s open tryout sessions put on by the MLB scouting bureau each summer. This is where the rare undiscovered talent like Tampa Bay Devil Rays pitcher Jim Morris — the high school teacher whose story got turned into a Disney movie — is found. The guys who went undrafted out of college or whose life path differed from the usual path of a professional baseball player. Sometimes some future minor leaguers are found in this setting, but it’s pretty rare.

Two years ago Tony Dokoupil of NBC News did a story about these tryouts. It’s a pretty interesting read. If, for no other reason, than it can serve as a contrast to whatever ratings-grabbing spectacle I suspect ESPN will turn Tebow’s MLB tryout into.

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

tampa bay rays
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.