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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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Rays Turn Tiny Payroll Into Historic Start

  • The Tampa Bay Rays are on the cusp of a historic start to the MLB season, and they're doing it with the league's fourth lowest payroll.
  • The team has largely eschewed the free agent market in sourcing talent.
Tampa Bay Rays second baseman Brandon Lowe (8) is congratulated by shortstop Wander Franco (5) after hitting a solo home run against the Boston Red Sox in the seventh inning at Tropicana Field.
Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

The 13-0 Tampa Bay Rays are chasing the best start in MLB history — while paying their team less than what the New York Mets are paying for two pitchers.

With the fourth-lowest payroll in MLB at $77 million, the Rays have maximized the bang for their buck by taking advantage of  MLB salary rules regarding young players. Players in their first three years generally make league-minimum salaries, followed by three years of arbitration.

The Rays have ample star power at very low prices:

  • Cy Young hopeful Shane McClanahan and the quietly excellent Drew Rasmussen make league minimum salaries under $800,000.
  • Emerging star Wander Franco signed an 11-year, $182 million extension but is making $2.5 million this year. The Rays were able to leverage the fact that he would have been making the league minimum.
  • Star outfielder Randy Arozarena is making $4.2 million in his first year of arbitration.

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The team tends to do little in the free-agent market, where players can offer their services to any team with no restrictions. The Rays’ signing of Zach Eflin to a three-year, $40 million contract last offseason was the largest free-agent signing in the team’s history. 

There were 20 larger deals in the most recent offseason alone.

With a win tonight in Toronto, the Rays can secure the longest season-opening streak since 1884, when the St. Louis Maroons began the season 20-0.

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