Rays Sign Pete Fairbanks To Extension

Rays Sign Pete Fairbanks To Extension

The Rays announced Friday afternoon they’ve signed reliever Pete Fairbanks to a three-year extension with a 2026 club option. The deal buys out his three remaining seasons of arbitration eligibility, while the club option covers what would’ve been his first free-agent season.

Fairbanks, a client of Republik Sports, is reportedly guaranteed $12MM over the next three seasons (including a $1MM buyout on the 2026 option). Fairbanks will be paid $3.666MM annually between 2023-25, while the option comes with a $7MM base value. The deal also contains various incentives and escalators that could max it out at $24.6MM over four seasons.

Fairbanks and the Rays had yet to settle on a salary for the upcoming season, as he’d filed for a $1.9MM figure in his first time through the arbitration process, while the team countered at $1.5MM. Fairbanks would’ve been in line for another pair of raises in 2024 and 2025, but those salaries are now locked into place. In exchange for a guarantee that could err toward the high end of what he might’ve earned going year to year, Fairbanks will give the Rays control over his first free-agent campaign — his age-32 season.

The 29-year-old Fairbanks, acquired from the Rangers in a straight-up swap for infielder/outfielder Nick Solak back in 2019, has become one of the Rays’ top late-inning options. Tampa Bay doesn’t typically deploy one set closer, but Fairbanks is among the favorites to lead the club in saves during the upcoming season. Over the past three years, he’s pitched to a 2.70 ERA with a 33.8% strikeout rate and 9.7% walk rate in 93 1/3 innings.

Injuries have kept Fairbanks from working a full slate of innings over a 162-game season, however. In 2021, he twice landed on the injured list due to shoulder disorders — first a strained rotator cuff, then a bout of inflammation — missing roughly a month each time. He missed more than three months of the 2022 season due to a late strain.

Though there are some durability concerns, Fairbanks’ 2022 campaign, in particular, illustrates the potentially dominating arm the Rays are locking up on this deal. Fairbanks averaged a blistering 99.2 mph on his heater while pitching to a 1.13 ERA with a comical 43.7% strikeout rate, a brilliant 3.4% walk rate and a well above-average 53.3% ground-ball rate. He also registered a 17% swinging-strike rate that ranked 16th out of the 546 pitchers who tossed at least 20 innings in 2022. Fairbanks didn’t allow a run over his final 22 innings of the season.

It’s the second multi-year extension this week for the Rays, who exchanged arbitration figures with a whopping seven players ago two weeks ago on exchange day. Southpaw Jeffrey Springs agreed to a four-year, $31MM contract that bought out two arbitration seasons and two free-agent years earlier in the week. The Rays, like many other clubs, have taken a file-and-trial approach to arbitration in recent years — effectively cutting off talks on one-year deals once figures are exchanged. Those clubs will typically remain open to working out multi-year arrangements if the player is amenable, and otherwise, an arbitration hearing is the typical outcome.

The Rays still have another five players with unresolved cases. Infielder Yandy Diaz (requested $6.3MM to the Rays’ $5.5MM), first baseman/outfielder Harold Ramirez ($2.2MM vs. $1.9MM), lefty Colin Pocket ($1.3MM vs. $1.175MM), righty Ryan Thompson ($1.2MM vs. $1MM) and righty jason adam ($1.775MM vs. $1.55MM) all exchanged figures with the team on Jan. 13 after being unable to come to terms on a one-year salary figure.

With the recent rash of extensions over the past year-plus — Wander Franco, Tyler Glasnow, Manuel Margot and Springs also agreed to multi-year deals — and the Rays’ signing of Zach Eflin to a three-year contract, Tampa Bay is in the rare position of having a decent bit of cash already on the books two years down the road. The Rays already have $65.666MM guaranteed to seven players for the 2024 campaign, and that’s before factoring in what’s currently slated to be 13 arbitration-eligible players, league-minimum players to round out the group and, of course, any forthcoming additions via trade or free agency over the next 12 months or so.

The Rays have never opened a season with a payroll higher than last year’s $83.8MM total. That won’t change in 2023, barring an unexpected late addition to the roster, but barring a major trade or trades, they look like locks to set a new franchise record in player payroll in 2024. And with each of Diaz, Ramirez, Poche , Thompson and Adam all still unsettled, it’s possible Tampa Bay could yet add a few more guaranteed salaries to that ledger by hammering out additional multi-year pacts with the currently outstanding members of their arbitration class.

Jeff Passan of ESPN was first to report the Rays and Fairbanks had agreed to a three-year, $12MM guarantee with a fourth-year club option. Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported the option’s base value and buyout. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reported the contract’s maximum value and specific salary breakdown.

Image courtesy of USA Today Sports.

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