Rays decline options on Wheeler, Aybar
Durham MVP Johnson added to 40-man roster
ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays have declined their options for 2011 on Willy Aybar and right-hander Dan Wheeler.
Wheeler, 32, is a veteran of 11 Major League seasons. In 2010, he went 2-4 with three saves and a 3.35 ERA in 64 games. Since 2005, his 419 appearances are tied for third-most in the Major Leagues behind Chad Qualls (435) and Francisco Cordero (424). His 258 appearances as a Ray rank second in club history behind Esteban Yan (266).
The Rays will pay Wheeler a $1 million buyout rather than exercise the 2011 option for $4 million, but he has not ruled out returning to the team in 2011, noting that the Rays have expressed a desire to keep open the lines of communication during the offseason.
Wheeler has pitched in parts of seven seasons (1999-2001, 2007-10) with the Rays.
"I've enjoyed my time with the Rays," Wheeler said. "They have been a first-class organization."
The Rays did not exercise Aybar's $2.2 million option for 2011, so they will pay him a $275,000 buyout. He remains under the Rays' control and is eligible for salary arbitration later this winter.
The native of the Dominican Republic appeared in 100 games in 2010 and hit .230 with six home runs and 43 RBIs. He has spent three seasons with the Rays, compiling a .246 batting average with 28 homers and 117 RBIs. He is the all-time franchise leader in hits (15) and RBIs (15) as a pinch-hitter, including 10 RBIs this season, most by an American League player since 2004.
In another move, the Rays selected utility player Elliot Johnson and added him to the 40-man roster. Johnson hasn't appeared in the Majors since 2008, when he had 19 at-bats during a seven-game stint with the club after making the Opening Day roster.
Johnson, 26, was an International League All-Star and Durham's Most Valuable Player in 2010. He hit a career-high .319, which ranked fourth in the IL and third among Rays Minor Leaguers, with 11 home runs and 30 stolen bases. He appeared in 109 games at shortstop, second base, left field and right field. The switch-hitter has spent all nine seasons of his professional career in the Rays' organization.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.