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Tampa Bay Rays sign OF Gabe Kapler



UPDATE, 4:24: If you are wondering why the Rays could sign Kapler for $1-million after saying they couldn't afford to re-sign Rocco Baldelli, who got a $500,000 guaranteed salary from the Red Sox, the answer is the millions of dollars Baldelli can earn in incentives if he plays regularly. Kapler gets just the $1-million, which is all the Rays could afford, executive VP Andrew Friedman said.

"This was the extent of our financial flexibility,'' he said. "Any time you sign a player to an incentive-laden deal you have to expect them to make them, or a good portion of them. ... We were already pretty over-extended before this, and this was about the extent of our flexibility.''

Friedman said Kapler is a good fit for a number of reasons and greatly improves their depth. Though no decisions will be made anytime soon, it would seem that Fernando Perez is now likely to open the season in the minors, where he can continue to play every day rather than only occasionally in the majors. And Friedman also mentioned the idea of having more trade flexibility.

UPDATE, 3:45: Kapler said he chose the Rays because of the chance to win, and liked the idea of being in the Tampa Bay area. "There's a great opportunity for me to perform in Tampa and I expect to take advantage of that opportunity,'' Kapler said.

He said the torn muscle in his right shoulder that limited him at the end of last season is healed and he is better shape going into this season than he was last year. "Going forward I expect to build on what I did last year and be better than I was last year,'' Kapler said.

Among other comments on a brief conference call, he said his "No. 1 goal at this point is to prove to my teammates that I am a great teammate,'' he puts a lot of emphasis on mental training, he continues to work out extensively, and he "loves" to eat healthy - "I'm fascinated by nutrition.''

The Rays will have to drop a player to make room for the addition of Kapler on the 40-man roster, and that should be announced shortly. Pitchers Jae-Kuk Ryu and Juan Salas would seem to be among the most likely to go.

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The Rays have signed OF Gabe Kapler to a one-year, $1-million deal.

Kapler, 33, hit .301 in a part-time role for the Brewers last season with 8 homers and 38 RBIs. He spent the previous season as a minor-league manager before deciding he wanted to keep playing.

He has a career .273 average in 10 major-league seasons, and as a right-handed hitter could be part of a platoon in rightfield (with Gabe Gross) and also fill in in centerfield, which could be important as B.J. Upton recovers from off-season surgery.

Kapler was a member of the 2004 Red Sox championship team, has also played for the Tigers, Rangers and Rockies.

The Phillies reportedly also had interest in signing him.

[Last modified: Monday, December 21, 2009 12:44am]


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