Pirates win top pick in baseball’s first draft lottery

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SAN DIEGO – The Pittsburgh Pirates won baseball’s first draft lottery Tuesday night and will get the top pick of eligible amateur players in July.

The Washington Nationals will select second after finishing last season with the worst record in the major leagues at 55-107. The Detroit Tigers will choose third.

“Every once in a while in this game, as we all know, it helps to get a little bounce – and we got one tonight,” Pirates general manager Ben Cherington said during an interview on MLB Network.

The Minnesota Twins also were big winners, moving up from 13th in the pre-lottery order based on their 2022 record to fifth when the ping pong balls were plucked at baseball’s winter meetings.

Oakland was a substantial loser, falling from the second-worst record (60-102) to the No. 6 draft pick.

Detroit jumped up from sixth to third and Texas rose from seventh to fourth, giving the Rangers a top-four selection for the third straight year.

The Nationals, Athletics and Pirates entered the lottery with the best chance for the No. 1 pick at 16.5% for each team.

It will be the sixth time the Pirates pick first and second in three years. They snagged Louisville catcher Henry Davis with the top choice in 2021.

“When you get closer it helps your war game a little bit because you know you’re picking first and you can kind of manage it,” Cherington said. “But in terms of the process of getting to know the players, it won’t change much. We were going to get to know the players at the top of the board anyway. But this is exciting.”

LSU outfielder Dylan Crews, Tennessee right-hander Chase Dollander and Mississippi shortstop Jacob Gonzalez are among the top prospects for the 2023 draft, along with prep outfielders Max Clark and Walker Jenkins.

The lottery was instituted this year as part of Major League Baseball’s labor agreement with the players’ association in March, a measure intended to discourage tanking for top draft picks by struggling teams.

With the change, the club that finishes with the worst record in the big leagues is no longer assured the No. 1 choice in the following draft – or even a spot in the top six.

All 18 clubs that failed to make the 2022 postseason were eligible to win the No. 1 pick.

“I thought it was great,” Cherington said with a smile. “We’re incredibly excited – honored to be in this position for the first draft lottery. Obviously young players are such an important part of our future, and excited to get a chance to make the first selection next year.”

After the Nationals, A’s and Pirates, the Cincinnati Reds had the next-best chance to win at 13.2%. They will select seventh.

Pittsburgh and Cincinnati tied for the third-worst record in the majors this year at 62-100, but the Pirates got into the top odds tier because they had a worse record than the Reds in 2021.

“When you’re picking up high in the draft, we know that that’s really important. Whether it’s 1 or 3 or 5, we’ve got to get those picks right and bring good players in,” Cherington said. “So I don’t feel like it’s more pressure. We’ve had practice with it obviously recently. I anticipate and certainly hope we will not be sitting in this seat in future years. But we’re going to take advantage of this one.”

Kansas City, which had a 10% chance for the top pick, will choose eighth. Detroit entered with the sixth-best odds to win at 7.5% and landed in the top five for the fifth time in the past six years.

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.