Sheffield has interest in Rays; are they looking back?
UPDATE, 6:18: Agent Rufus Williams confirmed that Sheffield definitely has interest in coming home to the Rays, and that he mentioned it when they talked today. "In his own words, he said he’d have interest in the Rays, and he’d mentioned that before,’’ Williams said. “But it has to present itself. This all happened pretty quick. You would be hard-pressed to find someone at the end of their career who didn't have interest in finishing heir career at home.''
But the Rays are not the only possibility, with the Phillies among the teams that reportedly have interest. "There are other teams that have contacted us,'' Williams said. "There are some very interesting things out there. Rather than close doors I'd prefer to open them.''
UPDATE, 1:50: From the look of other comments Sheffield, 40, made this morning, it sounds like he is of the opinion he could play the outfield.
"I have a lot left. I know that," he said. "If one person doesn't think you can play in the field, that's their opinion. I know I can. Nobody understands my body better than me. Unfortunately, I got hurt here and wasn't able to show what I can really do. I fought real hard to get back to this point. I just feel like I've got more to give."
Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski said: "Gary Sheffield is a probable Hall of Famer, and I think he should be a Hall of Famer. He's had a tremendous career. But ... when we looked at our roster, it was hard to keep Marcus Thames and Gary Sheffield. We have a player in Marcus Thames that we think can be a productive hitter for us."
This spring, Sheffield hit .178 (8-for-45) with three home runs, 13 walks, 10 strikeouts.
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UPDATE, 1:30: If Gary Sheffield is interested in signing with the Rays, they seem at least willing to think about it, though it seems he would have to be able to play rightfield since Pat Burrell is going to be the primary DH.
"That's very complimentary that he would want to come play for us,'' manager Joe Maddon said. "I have so much respect for this guy as a baseball player. I've gotten to know him a little bit over the last couple years, just having abstract conversations with him. I saw him during the off-season he's in great shape, he's a very strong person. And I like him. Conversationally I really like him. I don't know, again, it's very complimentary that he would want to play with us, and beyond that I have no idea what would happen.''
Fitting Sheffield into the lineup would take some creativity, which the Rays seem to relish, though it would go against their defensive oriented philosophy. "There's probably different kind of conjecture that can be applied to all of that,'' Maddon said. "I just know that I consider it a high compliment for a man of that stature to say he wants to play for us. That's what really stands out to me.''
But is it a realistic possibility? "I have no idea.''
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Gary Sheffield was released by the Tigers on Tuesday and, according to the Detroit Free Press, the Tampa native is hoping to come home and play for the Rays:
"Once he clears waivers, Sheffield will be able to sign with another team. He said he’d give preference to the Tampa Bay Rays, who play close to his home."
Sheffield told the paper he still “feels great” physically and would like to play this season. When asked if this is the end of his career, he replied, “It ain’t close.”
Even though Sheffield could be had for the $400,000 minimum salary (with the Tigers paying the rest of his $14-million salary), he wouldn't appear to fit with the Rays, who signed Pat Burrell to be their primary DH and have their outfield set, although with a platoon in rightfield of Gabe Gross and Gabe Kapler.