Choate signs with Marlins, Bartlett resolution may be (finally) coming
UPDATE, 9:50: Choate said he was interested in staying, but the Marlins were the only team to offer the secuirty he was seeking. As for leaving the Rays after two seasons, he said: "It's kinda sad, the bullpen had been together ... but it's the way of the business. The Rays obviously have a plan and Andrew (Friedman, exec VP) is a bright guy, and I'm sure they'll figure out the direction they need to go.''
DEVELOPING: The Rays lost another member of their bullpen on Wednesday, when lefty Randy Choate agreed to a two-year deal with the Marlins. But they may be getting a couple new relievers, in exchange for SS Jason Bartlett, as the stalled trade with San Diego appears to be finally headed toward resolution.
Choate will get $2.5-million guaranteed plus some incentives, according to Foxsports.com's Ken Rosenthal. The breakdown is $1-million in 2011 and $1.5-million in '12, with $150,000 in performance bonuses each year based upon appearances.
Choate was among the relievers the Rays hoped to retain, but his preference for a guaranteed deal led him to decline arbitration from the Rays and look elsewhere, and he joined Joaquin Benoit in leaving, with closer Rafael Soriano also headed for a big-dollar deal elsewhere.
Manager Joe Maddon, taking a break in his Thanks-mas event at the St. Petersburg Salvation Army building (above), said he wasn't surprised that Choate left, and sounded braced for the departure of Grant Balfour (who also turned down arbitration and wants a multi-year deal) and Dan Wheeler as well.
"Among the whole group we thought maybe Randy had a chance to come back, possibly Grant and Danny,'' Maddon said. "We thought maybe we had a chance of getting them back, but they're all departing, one by one. The exodus continues. But we're not surprised by it, it's not catching us off-guard. We've been planning for this potentiality all along. And we have a lot of good ideas. We just have to continue to wait and be patient and make what we perceive to be the appropriate move at the right time.''
Word of the Bartlett trade first surfaced a week ago, with reports of a deal for relievers Adam Russell and Cesar Ramos. But the Rays said the initial reports were "premature" and neither side has said anything since, though it has become apparent the holdup had to do with the physical condition of one of the pitchers, apparently Russell.
But the end appears in sight. Padres GM Jed Hoyer said on San Diego's flagship radop station xx1090 this afternoon: "We're working on some things with Tampa. I hope it's something that can get resolved quickly."
Meanwhile, Maddon; broadcasters Andy Freed, Rich Herrerra, Dewayne Staats and Dave Wills; VP Rick Vaughn and other team officials and employees served dinner to more than 200 at the Salvation Army building, the third stop of Maddon's four-day Thanks-mas event, which concludes today in Tampa.
"We're connecting with people, and they appreciate it,'' Maddon said. "There's an exchange, and that's great. And we're working to make it better, whatever that means.''
Photo courtesy of Rays/Steven Kovich