By his own estimation, Jeremy Hellickson put the Tampa Bay Rays in position to win in slightly more than half of his starts during the 2013 season. So, when the Rays offered him more than a $3 million raise through the arbitration process, well ...
“To say the least I’m very, very excited,” Hellickson said Friday shortly after agreeing on a one-year, $3.625 million deal that includes $25,000 in incentives.
Hellickson was one of six arbitration-eligible Rays to agree to terms Friday on 2014 contracts, thus avoiding arbitration. Left-hander David Price avoided arbitration Thursday when he agreed to a franchise record one-year, $14 million contract.
The Rays also agreed to terms one one-year deals with outfielder Matt Joyce ($3.7 million), pitchers Jake McGee ($1.45 million) and Cesar Ramos ($749,750), infielder/outfielder Sean Rodriguez ($1.475 million plus $25,000 in incentives with 300 plate appearances) and catcher Jose Lobaton ($950,000).
“Obviously we’re thrilled to have resolved all of our arbitration cases,” executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said.
Neither side is eager to go through an arbitration hearing, especially the players and their agents since the Rays have never lost an arbitration case.
Aside from Price, the two biggest payouts were to a pair of players coming off down years.
Joyce batted .235 last season with 18 home runs, 47 RBI and a .328 on-base percentage. He struggled down the stretch, batting only .089 with a home run and three RBI in 56 September at-bats.
“He’s a guy who historically has been incredibly strong against right-handed pitching. He does a lot of things that we value a lot,” Friedman said. “He struggled some at points last year. It was kind of an up-and-down season for him, where he had a couple of hot months and months were he struggled more. …Nothing has changed in his innate ability, especially against right-handed pitching.”
Joyce, the subject of several trade rumors this offseason, said he’s glad to get this process out of the way so he can concentrate on the upcoming season.
“I’m happy with the way things have worked out,” Joyce said. “My intentions are the same as always: to work my butt off and do the best I can to help my team succeed.”
Hellickson was 12-10 with a career-high 5.17 ERA in 32 games/31 starts. He was taken off the roster in late-August for the purpose of receiving rest. That he started Game 4 of the American League Division Series against the Boston Red Sox was a surprise to many who wondered about his spot on the postseason roster.
Like Joyce, Hellickson sees 2014 as a rebound year.
“I’m definitely motivated to have a better year,” Hellickson said. “I pride myself on being consistent every (start), and I think I did that 16 times out of my 31 starts.”
Friedman said some of Hellickson’s undoing last season stemmed from factors outside the pitcher’s control. Some fell directly on Hellickson. Friedman said he’s very confident Hellickson will rebound this summer.
“He’s an incredible competitor,” Friedman said. “In a weird way the struggles he experienced last year will make him better this year. That’s about knowing someone’s make up. There are certain guys that would experience failure and potentially not be able to rebound from it. With how competitive Jeremy is, I would absolutely bet on him to apply what he learned last year and make himself that much better in 2014.”