Going into MLB’s Winter Meetings, Rays Executive VP of Operations Andrew Friedman had his to do list close by. It included a DH, first baseman, a reliever or two and it included a few caveats, “don’t trade defense for offense, don’t make a trade just to trade, don’t sell the farm and don’t give up something without getting a good return.”
No need to worry as the streak of four consecutive years of winter meeting trades or free agent signings came to an end without as much as a tweet.
Although there were many talks through the first three days, it’s more than likely that the return just wasn’t enough or what Friedman felt was fair compensation for say B.J. Upton or James Shields, whose names continue to flood the rumor mill and as well, Jeff Niemann and Wade Davis whose days could be numbered more so because of the emergence of Matt Moore and Alex Cobb.
According to several media outlets, Cincinnati GM Walt Jocketty was quoted as saying that he has talked with the Rays “several times” but he didn’t think that they were close on anything. Their interest is in James Shields who would command a boatload in return and would definitely have to include OF/1B Yonder Alonzo and/or catcher Yasmani Grandal.
In addition to Cincinnati’s interest in Shields, the Kansas City Royals inquired and was told that it would take closer Joakim Soria, outfield prospect Wil Myers and shortstop prospect Christian Colon.
Early speculation was that the Rays would be very interested in Miami Marlins first baseman Gabby Sanchez if they were able to land Albert Pujols. That scenario is unlikely now, as the Marlins withdrew pursuing Pujols after signing Mark Buehrle.
There still remains the chance to re-sign first baseman Casey Kotchman, though at a salary significantly more than the $750,000 he earned in 2011. Jon Heyman of SI.com tweeted that the Cleveland Indians are looking at every first baseman not named Fielder or Pujols.
The flame is still burning, though ever so slightly on free agent Josh Willingham who officially declined arbitration from the Oakland A’s before Wednesday night’s deadline.
Willingham had a career year in 2011 hitting 29 home runs with 98 RBIs for Oakland. Primarily a corner outfielder, he would certainly fit the need as a power-hitting DH. Willingham has hit at least 21 home runs every season in which he played at least 133 games.
While there was no official or unofficial comment from the Rays, Willingham who earned $6 million last season could be out of the picture from a salary standpoint even before an offer can be made.
ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick tweeted that there are nine teams that have shown interest in his services, among them being the Minnesota Twins, Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians.
The flame may have just gone out as Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle added via Twitter that there are three teams most likely to land Willingham – Minnesota, Cleveland and Colorado.
If by luck the Rays can sign Willingham, his signing would not cause the team to lose as draft pick as he is classified as a “modified” Type A free agent under the one-year arrangement within the new Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Instead, the A’s will receive compensation in the form of the pick before the signing team’s scheduled first-round pick, as well as a supplemental-round selection. The change to the status of those modified free agents is for this off-season only, as a new set of rules will be implemented next year.
Should landing Willingham go by the wayside, there still remains the possibility that Johnny Damon could return.
“Look, we’ve talked extensively about the value of Johnny, both what he did on the field and off the field,” Friedman said. “His obvious value and his kind of under-the-surface value is not lost on us at all and it’s a big part of the reason that he’s been a part of our discussions,” said Friedman talking to Rays’ beat writer for MLB.com Bill Chastain.
Friedman continues to listen for offers on B.J. Upton, whom the Washington Nationals are still very much interested in. Washington and the Rays had discussions at the trade deadline last July, but the Rays decided to hold on to Upton.
More than probable, the Rays want considerably more that what the Nationals have offered in the past and currently – plus, there really isn’t much as far as I can determine that could or would satisfy the Rays needs.
Can you say Carlos Pena to fit the bill for power and firstbase? Marc Topkin of the St. Pete Times reports via his blog “The Heater” that Carlos Pena is a possibility, though remote considering his potential price tag. Pena made $10-million last season with the Cubs, and hit .225 with 28 home runs and 80 RBIs – Pena’s agent, Scott Boras said he’s received multiple inquiries and is not likely to come at a bargain price to the Rays.
This being the final day of the Winter Meetings concludes with the Rule 5 Draft. The Rays passed even though they have an opening on their 40-man roster, but they did lose a couple of players who were not on the 40-man roster.
Selected in the Draft by the Boston Red Sox was catcher Gerardo Olivares from the Hudson Valley Renegades and the Baltimore Orioles selected third baseman Matthew Sweeney from the Montgomery Biscuits.
FYI – Sweeney was part of the Scott Kazmir trade along with Sean Rodriguez and Alex Cobb in 2009.
For more info: Tampa Bay Rays
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