Braves won’t promote Ronald Acuña until he plays better at Triple-A

AP Photo/Lynne Sladky
9 Comments

Braves top prospect Ronald Acuña was a hot topic of conversation last month. The 20-year-old outfielder lit up opposing pitching all spring, batting .432 with four home runs and 11 RBI in 52 plate appearances. As expected, however, the Braves sent him to Triple-A Gwinnett to start the season.

The reason why the Braves did that was fairly obvious, even though they never admitted to it: service time manipulation. Once a certain portion of the season passes — typically around mid-April — teams are assured of an extra year of contractual control over their players who haven’t played in the majors yet. This is why the Cubs briefly delayed Kris Bryant‘s MLB debut in 2015 and it’s why Acuña started the year with Gwinnett.

Acuña tore up Triple-A pitching last year just as he did spring pitching. In 243 plate appearances, he hit .344/.393/.548, which is why MLB Pipeline ranked him as the Braves’ No. 1 prospect and No. 2 overall in baseball behind Shohei Ohtani. Unfortunately for Acuña, he hasn’t had the same success to start the 2018 season. In 36 plate appearances, he’s batting a lowly .152/.222/.182. According to MLB.com’s Mark Bowman, the Braves are now saying they won’t promote their top prospect until he shows better results at Triple-A.

The Braves, who aren’t really beholden to service time manipulation anymore, aren’t being coy this time — Acuña’s stats are miserable and the Braves’ offense (save for Ender Inciarte) has been excellent to start the season, so there’s no rush here. Once Preston Tucker‘s hot streak wears off and when Acuña is hitting better, then the Braves will be motivated to call him up.

Jeffrey Springs, Rays agree to $31 million, 4-year contract

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
1 Comment

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.