Rays preparing for arbitration process

Rays preparing for arbitration process

ST. PETERSBURG -- While Andrew Friedman was at Tropicana Field on Tuesday to watch the Rays' future prospects, he was also mindful of the team's more immediate personnel issues.

The organization's executive vice president of baseball operations is facing Friday's deadline for clubs to exchange arbitration figures with players. Four Tampa Bay players filed for arbitration on Tuesday: Jeff Niemann, Matt Joyce, Sam Fuld and Ryan Roberts.

Friedman said the Rays could reach deals with some of those players before the deadline, as they did with David Price ($10.1125 million) and Sean Rodriguez ($1 million), but he didn't have any more news to report on that front.

"I just don't have a good feel," Friedman said. "Very well could, just don't know yet."

Niemann made $2.5 million in 2012 but missed most of the season due to injury. Joyce, who made $499,500 last year, posted a .241/.341/.429 batting line in 124 games. Fuld was under contract for $489,400 last season and sat out until July following wrist surgery. And Roberts, acquired in a midseason trade last year, batted .214 with a .647 OPS in 60 games with Tampa Bay.

Arbitration hearings will take place between Feb. 4 and Feb. 20 in St. Petersburg. Last year, Niemann was the only Rays player who went to arbitration, losing his case against the team. Tampa Bay has not lost any of its six arbitration cases, including five under the current front office.

Beyond that, the Rays still appear to have an opening for at least one more player. Friedman cautioned that they "certainly don't need to do anything" but admitted he'd like to improve his current roster and create more depth. That could happen via trade or free agency, with Friedman considering the latter a more realistic option.

The most glaring hole in Tampa Bay's lineup, as it stands now, would be the lack of a designated hitter. Friedman noted that the Rays could always utilize a rotation of their position players, keeping some of them fresh or putting out a stronger defensive group, but they are also looking at the market for more "traditional" DH options.

"Point is, there's a scenario where you have one position player who's not a DH and you just rotate a bunch of guys through to get them off their feet," Friedman said. "And then there's scenarios where you add a more traditional DH. We're just going through all those scenarios."