Rays to renew Blake Snell at only $573,700

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Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that the Rays are going to renew Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell for $573,700 for the 2019 season. That means Snell will make only $15,500 more than he made last season. The minimum salary for 2018 is $555,000, up $10,000 from last year.

Such moves are not uncommon for pre-arbitration players like Snell. Players with less than three years of service time have no leverage whatsoever and the clubs can play them whatever they want as long as it’s not below the minimum salary.

That said, it’s also not unheard of for clubs to give pre-arb players higher salaries for exceptional performance. For example, the Cubs paid Kris Bryant $1.05 million following his MVP-winning 2016 season despite the fact he was not yet arbitration-eligible. Snell, of course, won the American League Cy Young Award in 2018, winning a major league-best 21 games with only five losses and posted an AL-best 1.89 ERA with 221 strikeouts and 64 walks in 180.2 innings.

The salary structure, as provided by the Collective Bargaining Agreement, gives total free agency to players with more than six years of service time, some moderate amounts of leverage to players with 3-6 years of service time thanks to arbitration, and no leverage at all to guys, like Snell, in their first three seasons. Yet, because teams have emphasized youth so much in recent years, it is lowest-paid players who provide the most value to teams through their production, upsetting the expectations created by the salary structure. It’s thus a broken system that the players must attempt to rectify through negotiation going forward.

But just because the Rays can be this stingy with their ace doesn’t mean that it’s right for them to do so. Nor does it mean that they should. It’s, quite frankly, a cheap and low-rent move. They should do better by their players, especially their superstars.

Brown hired as general manager of Houston Astros

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HOUSTON — In joining the World Series champion Houston Astros, new general manager Dana Brown’s goal is to keep the team at the top of the league.

“I’m coming to a winning team and a big part of what I want to do is sustain the winning long term,” he said. “We want to continue to build, continue to sign good players, continue to develop players and continue the winning success.”

Brown was hired by the Astros on Thursday, replacing James Click, who was not given a new contract and parted ways with the Astros just days after they won the World Series.

Brown spent the last four seasons as the vice president of scouting for the Atlanta Braves.

“He is very analytic savvy,” Astros’ owner Jim Crane said. “He’s a great talent evaluator based upon what we’ve seen at the Braves, seasoned at player acquisitions, seasoned at player development and retention. They were often able to extend some of their player contracts… he’s got great people skills, excellent communicator and, last but not least, he’s a baseball player and knows baseball in and out and we were very impressed with that.”

The 55-year-old Brown becomes the only Black general manager in the majors and joins manager Dusty Baker to form just the second pairing of a Black manager and general manager in MLB history. The first was general manager Ken Williams and manager Jerry Manuel with the White Sox.

Brown said he interviewed for GM jobs with the Mets and Mariners in the past and that MLB commissioner Rob Manfred told him to stay positive and that his time to be a general manager would come.

“It’s pretty special,” he said. “We understand that there are a lot of qualified African Americans in the game that know baseball and that could be a big part of an organization and leading organization in baseball operations. So at the end of the day, I think it’s good for our sport to have diversity and I’m really excited for this opportunity.”

Crane was asked about having the league’s only Black general manager.

“Certainly, we are very focused on diversity with the Astros,” he said. “It’s a plus, but the guy’s extremely qualified and he’ll do a great job. It’s nice to see a man like Dana get the job and he earned the job. He’s got the qualifications. He’s ready to go.”

Brown doesn’t have a lot of connections to the Astros, but does have some ties. He played baseball at Seton Hall with Hall of Famer Craig Biggio, who spent his entire career with the Astros and serves as special assistant to the general manager. He played against fellow Hall of Famer and special assistant to the general manager Jeff Bagwell in the Cape Cod league during a short minor league career.

Brown said he spoke to both of them before taking the job and also chatted with Baker, whom he’s know for some time.

“Dusty is old school, he cuts it straight and I like it,” Brown said. “And so that means I can cut it straight with him.”

Brown worked for the Blue Jays from 2010-18 as a special assistant to the general manager. From 2001-09 he worked as director of scouting for the Nationals/Expos. He began his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates, where he spent eight years as their area scouting supervisor and East coast cross checker.

Click had served as Houston’s general manager since joining the team before the 2020 season from the Tampa Bay Rays.

Brown, who has been part of drafting a number of big-name players like Stephen Strasburg, Ryan Zimmerman and last season’s National League rookie of the year Michael Harris, is ready to show Crane that bringing him to Houston was the right choice.

“Baseball is all I know, it’s my entire life,” he said. “So I want to empty myself into this city, the Astro fans and let Jim Crane know that he made a special pick.”