The Rays announced they had signed left-handed Jeffrey Springs to a four-year contract extension. The southpaw will be guaranteed $31 million in the deal, but there are also incentives and a club option of $15 million for 2027 with a $750,000 buyout. If Springs hits all of the Cy Young award incentives and escalators and the club picks the option, he will earn $65.75 million over five years. The exact details of these incentives and escalators are not known. He will earn a salary of $4 million this year, $5.25 million next year, followed by $10.5 million in each of the next two seasons. Springs was expected to reach free agency after 2024, which could allow the Rays to secure him for three more seasons, should they eventually trigger that option.
Springs, 30, has had a unique baseball career. A 30th-round draft pick from Rangers, he drew little fanfare from potential evaluators in his first professional seasons. Although he got a rotation job for a few years, the Rangers used him exclusively as a relief in 2018 with good results. He pitched 56 2/3 innings between Double-A and Triple-A that year. The 4.13 ERA might not sound very impressive, but it was surely inflated by a .438 batting average on balls in play. He kept his walks at a reasonable 8.1% while striking out an incredible 41.7% of batters faced. He made his MLB debut that year, pitching 32 innings in 18 appearances with a 3.38 ERA.
He took a step back in 2019, missing a few months with tendonitis in his left biceps and posting a 6.40 ERA. Texas designated him for assignment through 2020, then traded him to the Red Sox for Sam Travis. The change of scenery hasn’t helped Springs get back on track, as he posted a 7.08 ERA in the shortened 2020 campaign. He was slated for assignment again, then returned to the Rays alongside Chris Mazza for prospects Ronaldo Hernandez and Nick Sogard.
The move to Tampa seems to have been the one Springs needed, as his results have completely reversed since then. He recorded a 3.43 ERA in 43 appearances in 2021, striking out 35.2% of batters faced while walking just 7.8% of them. In 2022, he started in the bullpen, but the club began to turn him into a starter as the season progressed. He responded well to the change, eventually throwing 135 1/3 innings with a 2.46 ERA, 26.2% strikeout rate, 5.6% walk rate and ball rate at. 40.9% soil.
After a few years of floundering and struggling, it’s no big surprise that Springs jumped at the chance to lock in some life-changing cash here. He first reached umpiring in 2022 but only earned $947.5,000, a slight increase from the league’s minimum of $700,000. It was projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz for a jump to $3 million this year, although he and the club did not reach an agreement by the filing deadline earlier this month. He submitted a figure of $3.55 million while the Rays filed at $2.7 million. Instead, he’ll earn $4 million and lock in eight-figure salaries going forward.
For the Rays, they clearly believe Springs is capable of continuing as an effective starter, although there is some risk here. Springs had great results in 2022, but it’s still only one season, and it wasn’t even a full season. As mentioned, Springs started the year in the bullpen and didn’t stretch until late May. He also remained on the disabled list for a few weeks in July due to a stiff right leg. Worries aside, the Rays are confident enough in the southpaw to be willing to bet on him.
For a low-spending team like the Rays, expansions are a big part of getting talent on the roster. Since they don’t usually buy at the top of the free agent market, they have to keep the guys around by locking them in before they get closer to the free market and increase their earning power. In recent years they have given extensions to players like Kevin Kiermaier, Blake Snell, Brandon Lowe, Take a walk Franco, Manuel Margot and Tyler Glassnowwith Springs now joining them on that list.
This won’t have a huge impact on the club’s wage bill in 2023 but will add decent commitments for 2025 and 2026. The club now have three players locked in the old season with Franco and Zach Eflin on the books there, with a club option for Lowe. In exchange for putting that money on the table, the Rays now have arguably the most rotational stability they’ve had in years. Recent seasons have seen them rely on bullpen plays and openers to get through a season, but they now have Springs, Glasnow, Eflin, Drew Rasmussen and Shane McClanahanwith depth options like Yonny Chirinos, Luis Patino and Josh Fleming. Most of this group are still in their pre-refereeing years, giving the club years of affordable control. None of them are slated for free agency after this year and Glasnow are now the only ones to enter the open market after 2024. The club also has one of the best pitching prospects in the sport in Taj Bradleywho finished last year at Triple-A and could make his debut this year.
Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times first reported the first report in four years the agreement and a lot of them details. Joel Sherman of the New York Post was the first with the distribution of salaries from one year to the next.
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