Rays looking for DH, 1B, bullpen help; getting lots of calls on pitchers
Rays executive VP Andrew Friedman talked Thursday about the team's plans and needs going into next week's winter meetings in Dallas. He declined to discuss the possibility of going to the Astros, who requested and received permission to speak to him. Such a move continues to be considered very unlikely.
Among the topics he covered:
* The team's primary targets are DH, 1B and another reliever or two. They also could add another bench player. The incumbents at DH (Johnny Damon) and 1B (Casey Kotchman) are "very much in the discussion" but there is also a desire to improve the offense, and not weaken the defense. He said he expects to add players through both trades and signing free agents. "There's a lot of very interesting scenarios out there,'' he said.
* There has already been heavy interest in the Rays stable of eight starting pitchers, though Friedman continues to insist he is not looking to deal from their unusual depth. "We're certainly not flippant about the depth that we have,'' he said. He did say if he did trade one, it's more likely to be in a deal for immediate major-league ready players than prospects. "I'd be surprised if we did something that didn't help our 2012, our 2012-13 teams,'' he said.
* They aren't looking to add a shortstop, planning for the position to be filled internally from the group of Sean Rodriguez, Reid Brignac and Elliot Johnson. Ben Zobrist will spend most of his time at second base, and Matt Joyce will get the opportunity to "play a lot" in rightfield.
* Jose Molina and either Jose Lobaton or Robinson Chirinos will share the catching position, with the time sharing to be determined. "If something lines up there where we can add more depth, that's great, but it's a very difficult position to do that and I wouldn't necessarily count on it,'' he said.
* Though CF B.J. Upton may draw trade interest, it seems unlikely the Rays would deal him since they are seeking to improve their offense. "We're looking to add to our offensive core,'' Friedman said.
* RHP Kyle Farnsworth, who had elbow issues at the end of the season, is feeling good and is expected to be fully healthy for next season. RHP Alex Cobb, who had surgery to remove a rib, is also on track to start the season on time.