MLBTR has signed Nimmo to a five-year, $110 million deal this winter that would mark far and away the largest contract the Rays have ever awarded to a free agent. It would also represent the franchise’s second-largest outlay on any contract, behind only Franco wanderedFor 11 years, $182 million extension. Since Nimmo turned down the Mets’ offer to qualify, Tampa Bay will also have to give up its third-highest draft pick in the 2023 draft as compensation for signing the player — a small penalty for a club that relies on building from within.
In short, it would be truly amazing if the Rays won the bid for one of the most sought-after free agents this winter. However, it should be noted that we are only about a year after the Rays show reported for Freddie FreemanAnother expensive name on the open market. Between Freeman’s bid and Franco’s stretch, there have been some hints from Tampa Bay that the Rays are willing to stretch their budget (by their standards) in order to capture that elusive championship. The Rays have reached the postseason in each of the past four years and reached the World Series in 2020, but fell short of the Dodgers in six games.
Assuming Nimmo does indeed sign for around $22 million in average annual value, such a deal would take Tampa Bay’s payroll into the new stratosphere, even though the team has already broken some financial benchmarks of its own. According to Cot’s Baseball Contracts, the Rays’ opening payroll in 2022 was just shy of $83.9 million, a new club record. Roster Resources Tampa projects for a 2023 payroll of about $67.7 million, and that number includes projected salaries for the still-large class of arbitration-eligible players.
Rays have already separated from some arb-qualified subjects (ie Ji Man ChoiAnd the Ryan Yarbrough) to save a few bucks, and any number of other creative deals that can still be thrown off the payroll. Tampa could continue to shop for more members of their refereeing class, or the team could look at moving players on guaranteed contracts. Franco is not going anywhere, but any Manuel MargotAnd the Brooks RaleighAnd the Tyler Glasnowor even Brandon Lowe They can be reasonable commercial chips.
Moving an established player to bring in a more expensive player like Nimmo might be an uncharacteristic move for the Rays, yet it might make sense in the circumstance. Nimmo would essentially be Margot’s replacement on the court, and Raley or Glasnow could be replaced by one of the many young arms from Tampa’s seemingly endless pipeline. The Rays did really well without Lowe for most of the 2022 season, with Lowe playing in only 65 games due to persistent back problems. If Lowe is traded, the Rays can count on a combination of Taylor WallsAnd the Isaac WallsAnd the Jonathan Arandaor Vidal Brogan At second base, as they did last season. Plus a big possibility Curtis Mead Waiting in the wings for his major league debut.
The Rays relied on their pitching and defense to win 86 games and claim a Wild Card berth last season, but Nimmo’s bat will be of great help to the lackluster offense. Nimmo hit .274/.367/.433 with 16 more home runs than he made 673 plate appearances last season, which translated to 134 wRC+ and 5.4 fWAR. No ray center player in 2022 had an fWAR higher than Yandy Diaz3.8, and only Diaz (146) had a WRC+ better. Nimmo’s left hitting even helps from a lineup balance perspective, as Tampa’s lineup is mostly right-handed.
An argument could be made that if the Rays are going to splurge on a player, it should be for someone who doesn’t have Nimmo’s checkered hit record. There is some irony in Tampa Bay chasing an injured quarterback so often Kevin Kiermayer Finally off the team books. Kiermaier’s six-year, $53.5 million extension was also one of the largest deals in Rays history, and while Kiermaier was rare in the Nimmo League as a hitter, Kiermaier was one of the league’s best catchers at any position when he was healthy enough to stay in the field. Overall metrics are a bit more mixed in Nemo’s work at center field, though Tampa could use him in any of the three outfield positions, since Jose Seri On hand to play the position.