Outfielder Sam Fuld was one of two arbitration-eligible Tampa Bay Rays non-tendered Monday, but that doesn’t mean his days with the Rays are over.
Executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said the move was more of a roster manipulation because of the early non-tender deadline than a parting of ways with Fuld, a fan favorite at Tropicana Field over the past three seasons.
“When they moved the tender deadline up I think for teams that have a little bit more turnover than others it just complicates things,” Friedman said. “But we still think very highly of Sam.”
Left-handed reliever Wesley Wright was also non-tendered.
As with Fuld, Friedman said the door remains open for Wright possibly returning in 2014.
“The move isn’t about talent as much as it’s about our current bullpen setup,” Fridedman said.
The Rays will tender contracts to pitchers David Price, Jeremy Hellickson, Jake McGee and Cesar Ramos, catcher Jose Lobaton, outfielder Matt Joyce and infield/outfielder Sean Rodriguez by the Jan. 17 deadline for teams to exchange figures with their arbitration-eligible players.
Meanwhile, Fuld and Wright are free agents.
“I knew it was a possibility,” Fuld said. “By no means did I think it was a sure thing that I’d be tendered. I was prepared for it at some level. Given the season I had last year, it’s not all together surprising.”
Fuld, who came to the Rays in 2011 from the Chicago Cubs in the Matt Garza trade, batted .230 in his three seasons in Tampa Bay, though that included a .199 average in 2013 with a .267 on-base percentage.
Fuld was squeezed out when the Rays re-signed outfielder David DeJesus in November. The fact that outfielder Brandon Guyer is out of options also worked against Fuld.
“It’s disappointing,” Fuld said. “(The Rays are) an amazing organization to be a part of. I understand the situation. No hard feelings.”
Fuld said he would not rule out the possibility of returning to the Rays.
“This is new territory for me,” he said. “I’ve never been in this situation. For the first time in my life, I have some say in who I play for.”
Wright, the left-handed reliever claimed on waivers on Aug. 12, threw 12 1/3 innings in 16 appearances. He had a 2.92 ERA.
The Rays also officially announced a two-year, $4.5 million contract for catcher Jose Molina.
Friedman said the light-hitting Molina will return for two more seasons because of the value he brings to the team behind the plate and his work with the young pitching staff.