Rays looking for offense in Vegas
Executive VP Andrew Friedman's pre-winter meetings media session yielded some interesting tidbits as the Rays seek to defend their AL Championship. Among them:
* Their "two biggest focal points" of the offseason are improving their offense and strenghtening their bullpen.
* Though they'd like to add a regular rightfielder and a DH, Friedman said realistically they are only likely to acquire one "impact" player.
* He said they remain open to talking with their three remaining free agents - OFs Rocco Baldelli and Eric Hinske and DH Cliff Floyd, who is rehabbing a shoulder injury rather than having surgery.
* Whereas in the past the Rays were more likely to look to the trade market rather than free agency, they are now about 50-50.
* Though all of baseball seems to be affected by the economy, he said the Rays were proceeding with their plans and are trying - thus far unsuccessfully - to be aggressive in signing players.
* Though the Rays appear to have an abundance of starting pitchers, they do not feel the need to make a trade, and younger pitchers such as Jason Hammel and Jeff Niemann, who will be out of options and can't be sent to the minors, will get a chance to be in the bullpen.
* David Price is not guaranteed a spot in the opening day rotation which means he could open the season in the minors.
Also, the Rays announced plans to open the first baseball academy in Brazil.