The Rays added another power arm to their bullpen on Wednesday with the signing of Ernesto Frieri, according to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Topkin notes that the one-year contract contains a base salary of $800k, with incentives that could push Frieri's 2015 salary to $3.15 million.
Frieri, a former closer for the Angels, will be looking to rebound in 2015 after a disappointing 2014 season with two different teams. Frieri began the year with the Angels, but was traded to the Pirates for Jason Grilli on June 27th. The Angels were willing to move Frieri after he posted a 6.39 ERA over 34 appearances. His struggles continued with the Pirates, as he posted a 10.13 ERA over 14 games, and he was released in early August.
Frieri represents a classic low risk, high reward player for Tampa Bay. Even if he reaches all of his incentives to get over $3 million in 2015, he will be a bargain if the production matches his numbers from the first five years of his career. From 2009-2013, Frieri posted a 2.76 ERA, along with a 12.26 K/9 rate. The Rays are banking on Frieri's 2014 season being a fluke due to the unusual jump in Frieri's home run-to-fly ball rate. Frierie's 8.5% HR/FB rate from '09-'13 saw a jump to 19.3% in 2014. Frieri's 10.37 K/9 for 2014 was very strong, and his 3.02 BB/9 was a career-best. If his production bounces back to his usual numbers, the Rays will be getting a major steal.
To make room for Frieri, the Rays had to designate Sean Rodriguez for assignment. Rodriguez, entering his final arbitration year, could make for a great bench piece for a team in need of versatility. In his eight-year career, Rodriguez has started at every position but pitcher and catcher, and brings quality defense to each position. Despite a career-low .258 OBP in 2014, Rodriguez posted a career-best 12 home runs in just 259 plate appearances.