Rays reach agreements with 8 arbitration-eligible players

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) Starting pitchers Alex Cobb and Drew Smyly and centerfielder Desmond Jennings were among eight Tampa Bay Rays avoiding salary arbitration hearings by agreeing to one-year contracts on Friday.

Cobb, who moved to the front of the rotation after 2012 AL Cy Young Award winner David Price was traded to Detroit last summer, will earn $4 million. Smyly, one of the players the Rays received in the Price deal, will receive $2.65 million with an opportunity to earn more in bonuses.

Jennings' salary is increasing from $517,000 to $3.1 million for next season.

Jake McGee will make $3.55 million and bullpen mate Kevin Jepsen $3,025,000. Catcher Rene Rivera ($1.2 million), infielder Logan Forsythe ($1.1 million) and designated hitter/catcher John Jaso ($3,175,000) also agreed to deals Friday, when players and owners exchanged proposed arbitration salaries.

It's not surprising that the Rays reached deals with all eight of their arbitration-eligible players.

The club has a longstanding policy of not negotiating beyond the swap. Under current ownership, the team is 5-0 in cases that have gone to hearings.

Cobb, 27, went 10-9 with a 2.87 ERA in 27 starts in 2014. Smyly is a 25-year-old left-hander who made seven starts after being acquired before the July 31 deadline, going 3-1 with a 1.70 ERA.

Jennings appeared in 123 games last season - 70 of them as Tampa Bay's leadoff hitter - white batting .244 with 1- homers and 36 RBIs. Forsythe, 28, played a career-high 110 games in his first season with the Rays, hitting .223 with six homers and 26 RBIs.

Jepsen, Rivera and Jaso all were obtained in trades this offseason.

Jepsen was acquired from the Los Angeles Angels after posting a career-best 2.63 ERA with 19 saves in 73 appearances last season.

Rivera was part of a three-team, 11-player deal that sent 2013 AL rookie of the year Wil Myers to San Diego. With the Padres, he batted .252 with 11 homers and 44 RBIs while making a career-high 85 starts and appearing in 103 games overall in 2014.

Jaso is back with his original team after being acquired from Oakland in the deal that sent Ben Zobrist to the Athletics last weekend. He's expected to be used primarily as a designated hitter against right-handed pitching after batting .264 with nine homers and 40 RBIs a year ago.

McGee was 5-2 with a 1.89 ERA and 19 saves in 73 appearances last season. He had surgery on Dec. 12 to remove ''loose bodies'' from his pitching elbow and may begin 2015 on the disabled list.

The Rays also announced minor league deals with infielder Juan Francisco and four others, inviting them all to major league spring training. Francisco hit .220 with 16 homers and 43 RBI's in 106 games for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2014.

The others agreeing to minor league deals were catcher Mayo Acosta, outfielder Joey Butler, right-hander Jhan Marinez and left-hander Everett Teaford.

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