ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Left-hander Jeffrey Springs became the first of the 33 players who exchanged proposed arbitration salaries with their teams to reach a deal, agreeing Wednesday to a $31 million, four-year contract with the Tampa Bay Rays that could be worth $65.75 million over five seasons.
The 30-year-old Springs was among seven Rays who swapped arbitration figures with the team Jan. 13. He began last season in the bullpen, transitioned to the starting rotation in May and finished 9-5 with a 2.46 ERA in 33 appearances, including 25 starts. He is 14-6 with a 2.70 ERA in 76 outings — 51 of them in relief — since he was acquired from Boston in February 2021.
Rays president of baseball operations Erik Neander said the sides had been working toward an agreement for weeks and that Springs — drafted in the 30th round by the Texas Rangers in 2015 — has earned the opportunity to be a big part of Tampa Bay’s future.
“Jeffrey’s journey in baseball is a story of constant development and improvement. It’s a heck of a story,” Neander said, noting Springs was not drafted high and spent time with multiple organizations before landing with the Rays and becoming an important component of the team’s success.
“A big reason why we’re here at this point is we see him continuing to do that moving forward,” Neander said. “To have that opportunity, he’s earned that and we’re really excited that we’re going to keep him around here longer than we otherwise would have.”
Springs, who is 19-10 with a 3.57 ERA over parts of five seasons with the Rangers, Red Sox and Rays, gets $4 million this year, $5.25 million in 2024 and $10.5 million in each of the following two seasons. Tampa Bay has a $15 million option for 2027 with a $750,000 buyout.
The 2025 and 2026 salaries can escalate by up to $3.75 million each based on innings in 2023-24 combined: $1.5 million for 300, $1 million for 325, $750,000 for 350 and $500,000 for 375. The ’25 and ’26 salaries also can escalate based on finish in Cy Young Award voting in ’23 and ’24: $2 million for winning, $1.5 million for finishing second through fifth and $250,000 for finishing sixth through 10th.
“Honestly, I don’t even know if it’s fully sank in quite yet,” Springs said. “Tons of emotion, to be honest, thinking about and hearing Erik talk about the journey. That’s something that kind of helped mold me into the person and player I am today, and I wouldn’t change that for anything.”
Tampa Bay’s option price could escalate based on Cy Young voting in 2025 and 2026: by $2.5 million for winning, $2 million for finishing second through fifth and $500,000 for sixth through 10th.
Springs would get $45.25 million if the option is exercised, $52.75 million with the option and meeting all innings targets, and the maximum if he meets the innings targets and wins two Cy Young Awards.
Springs’ ERA last season was the second-lowest in franchise history for a pitcher working a minimum of 100 innings. Former Rays ace Blake Snell compiled a 1.89 ERA on the way to winning the 2018 AL Cy Young Award.
In addition to finishing sixth in the AL in ERA, Springs allowed three runs or fewer in 22 of 25 starts and two runs or fewer 17 times. He joined Tampa Bay’s rotation May 9, gradually increasing his workload over his next six appearances. Springs was 6-3 with a 2.40 ERA in 14 starts after the All-Star break.
Arbitration hearings start next week and the Rays still have the most players scheduled to appear before three-person panels.
Springs had asked for a raise from $947,500 to $3.55 million and had been offered $2.7 million. Tampa Bay remains scheduled for hearings with right-handers Jason Adam, Pete Fairbanks and Ryan Thompson, left-hander Colin Poche, third baseman Yandy Díaz and outfielder Harold Ramírez.
Tampa Bay also agreed to minor league contacts with catcher Gavin Collins and right-hander Jaime Schultz, who will report to major league spring training.
Infielder Austin Shenton and pitchers Anthony Molina and Joe LaSorsa also were invited to big league spring training.