Arbitration deadline looms, and Thome talk?
As the Rays work toward resolving their four remaining arbitration cases (Jason Bartlett, Matt Garza, J.P. Howell and B.J. Upton) before their self-imposed Tuesday noon deadline for a settlement, they are also exploring options on some additional moves.
MLB.com reported Sunday they are among several teams to express interest in free agent DH Jim Thome, the 39-year-old lefty swinger with 564 home runs.
The Rays won't address specifics, but they have reached out to a number of remaining free agents exploring potential moves, though their roster is
relatively set barring an extraordinary bargain on an unlikely major trade. Thome, for example, would make much more sense if they were first able to move Pat Burrell since it's hard to image them, given their emphasis on versatility, carrying two players who can't play the field.
But if they thought there was a chance they could trade Burrell, reaching out to Thome would make sense as they explored potential replacements.
Thome told mlb.com he was hopeful of an opportunity after finishing last season with the Dodgers, and that it was odd to not have a job yet. "It's a new experience for me, but you have to let the process play out," he said. "Again, you trust your agents and trust the fact somebody will call and I'll play in 2010.''
Former White Sox teammate Paul Konerko said he deserved the chance. "If you are a team that wants to win, it's hard for me to see, with the way Jim swung the bat last year and the person he is, that somehow, some way he can't fit on a team in the Major Leagues," Konerko told mlb.com.
The arbitration cases apparently will come down to serious negotiations on Monday as the Rays adhere to their policy of cutting off talks and proceeding to a hearing once figures are exchanged, which happens at noon Tuesday.
Three of the Rays are first-time eligibles, and are in for major raises from the approximate $433,000 they made last year - LHP J.P. Howell to close to $2-million, RHP Matt Garza and CF B.J. Upton to around $3-million. SS Jason Bartlett, who made $1.98-million after a settlement last year, is likely to make around $4-million.