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Maddon HIP project gets a home


Rays manager Joe Maddon was in his hometown of Hazleton, Pa., on Friday for a landmark development with his Hazleton Integration Project, the purchase of a building, the former Most Precious Blood School, that will become The Hazleton One Community Center.

"Obviously it's a big first step,'' Maddon said by phone. "It's outstanding .. how far we've come in such a short period of time.''

Maddon said the community center eventually will be the host site for athletics, academics, adult education, drama, cooking and other kinds of activities, and that future fundraising events will be aimed at purchasing equipment and hiring staff. A soft opening is planned for March, and a grand opening in May. More than 100 people attended Friday's announcement.

Maddon will host a weekend of fundraising events Dec. 14-16.



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Non-tender deadline looms tonight

With a midnight tonight deadline to tender contracts, the Rays face interesting decisions on several of their eight arbitration-eligible players, specifically infielder Ryan Roberts, who projects to make $3 million, and outfielder Ben Francisco, around $2 million.

Also in question could be infielder Sean Rodriguez (around $1 million) and reliever Burke Badenhop ($1.6 million).

The other abitration eligibles are LHP David Price, RHP Jeff Niemann, OF Matt Joyce and OF Sam Fuld.

In some cases, the team may seek to negotiate lower salaries by the deadline and if not then cut the players loose with the potential to re-sign later.

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More minor-league signees

The Rays have also signed RHP Will Inman and 1B Nick Weglarz to minor-league deals. And they resigned RHP Matt Buschmann and INF Shawn O'Malley.They also confirmed the signings of OF Rich Thompson and INF Mike Fontenot. All have invitations to major-league spring training.

Here is the team release on the signings: …

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INF Fontenot, OF Thompson get minor-league deals

INF Mike Fontenot was signed, and OF Rich Thompson re-signed, to minor-league deals, according to Baseball America's Matt Eddy.

Fontenot, 32, has played parts of seven seasons in the majors with the Cubs, Giants and Phillies, primarily as a utility infielder. He hit .289 in 47 games last season in Philadelphia, and also played 16 games for at Triple-A. He was a member of the Giants 2010 championship team. He was first drafted by the Rays in 1999 in the 21st round but didn't sign, went to LSU and was a first-round pick by Balimore two years later.

Thompson, 33, was acquired from the Phillies organization last season and made his first big-league appearance since 2004 with the Rays in May. He spent much of his time at Triple-A Durham, but was recalled in September. Overall he hit .091 (2-for-22) and stole six bases in 23 games.


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Some scouting department hires

The team filled several openings in the scouting department.

Chuck Ricci was hired as the national cross-checker. He held the same post previously with Cleveland.

Bobby Heck, who had been the Astros scouting director before being let go by the new regime, will handle special assignment work.

Two former Rays minor-leaguers were hired as area scouts: Ronnie Merrill, who also played at the University of Tampa, will handle part of Florida and Puerto Rico, and Josh Arhart has southern California.


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Upton agrees to 5-year, $75M deal with Braves

OF B.J. Upton is now officially a former Ray, as he agreed to terms Wednesday with the Atlanta Braves, on what the Times has learned is a 5-year, $75.25-million deal.

A press conference and official announcement will be held Thursday.

Upton has spent his entire career with the Rays and made his home in Tampa.

Upton, who hit .246 with 28 home runs for the Rays last season, will add right-handed balance to the Atlanta lineup to go along with his speed and defense in centerfield.

The Phillies were the other team most interested in Upton, who was said to be impressed during a visit to Atlanta earlier this month, where he met with GM Frank Wren, manager Fredi Gonzalez and former manager Bobby Cox.



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Some more details on Longoria's contract

Here are some additional details about the new contract Evan Longoria agreed to with the Rays:

* Though the total of the salaries and payments over the 10 years is $136.6-million, the players union puts a present-day value on it at $131,044,173, primarily because $11-million of salary is deferred at no interest.

* His 2013 salary was reduced from $6-million to $2-million, with the additional $4-million shifted to his signing bonus, which was originally said to be $1-million, likely for tax purposes. The bonus is paid out in three installments, and the net result is that by the end of 2013, Longoria will make $7,000,180 rather than $6-million. The $180 was added for good luck.

* Part of his salary is deferred in each of the six "new" years on the deal - $1.5-million of $13-million in 2017 and $13.5-million in 2018; then $2-million in each of the next four, $14.5-million in 2019, $15-million in 2020, $18.5-million in 2021 and $19.5 in 2022. …

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Hall of Fame ballot with debate, 3 ex-Rays

Fresh off the AL MVP discussion, baseball is headed for its next great debate following Wednesday's official release of the 37-man Hall of Fame ballot that includes three prominent newcomers linked to sterioids - Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa.

Ballots will be cast by more than 600 longtime members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America through the month, with results announced Jan. 9 A players needs 75 percent of the vote for induction.

The ballot includes three former Rays: 1B/DH Fred McGriff, the Tampa native with 493 homers who is in his fourth year of eligibility; and first-timers closer Roberto Hernandez, who pitched for the Rays from 1998-2000 and finished his career with 326 saves; and - this one is a bit of a trick question - INF/DH Julio Franco, who got one at-bat for the Rays in 1999 during a 23-year career.

Other notable first-time candidates are Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza and Curt Schilling. The top returning candidates are Jack Morris, Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines.

Here's a link to the full ballot on the Hall of Fame web site.


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Bad break for free-agent Keppinger

INF Jeff Keppinger's free-agent stock may have taken a fall.

Keppinger, who hit a career-high .325 for the Rays last season, recently broke his right leg after tripping on stairs at his house, reported.

Keppinger is recuperating from surgery to what is said to be a small break, according to the report, with the expectation he still will be ready for spring training. The Yankees and D-backs are among interested teams; Keppinger said at the end of the season he'd like to return to the Rays.

This is Keppinger's second freak injury of the year - in May he was struck by a foul ball in the dugout and eneded up missing a month with a broken right big toe.
- Marc Topkin, times staff writer

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Terms of Longoria's new deal

The Times has obtained the terms of Evan Longoria's new contract, which grew by six years and $100-million on top of what he had remaining for a total of 10 years and $136.6-million.

Previous deal, now guaranteed:

2013: $6-million
2014: $7.5-million
2015: $11-million
2016: $12.1-million (increased from $11.5-million)

New deal (guaranteed)

$1-million signing bonus

2017: $13-million
2018: $13.5-million
2019: $14.5-million
2020: $15-million
2021: $18.5-million
2022: $19.5-million
2023: Team option - $5-million buyout or $13-million plus incentives.

If Longoria is traded, there is a $2-million assignment bonus (presumably paid by acquring team).



2017: $13-mol

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Video: Watch Longoria news conference

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UPDATED: Longoria deal extended thru 2022 for $100M

UPDATE, 11:19: Longoria posted this reaction on his Twitter account:

Today is a proud day for myself, my family, and my extended Rays family. Happy to call TB my home for the long haul!

UPDATE, 11:03: Per team policy, the deal does not include any no-trade provision, but it may include a re-assignment bonus, which would be paid (most likely by the acquiring team) if he was dealt.

UPDATE, 10:08: Longoria's salaries in the new deal step up from $13-million in 2017 to around $20-million in 2022.

UPDATE, 9:40: Also of note, team said Longoria underwent "a minor procedure" on his left hamstring on Tuesday and "is expected to be fully recovered for spring training." That's interesting, especially since at end of season team and Longoria both said there were no plans or need for any type of surgery.

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Ex-Ray Jonny Gomes joining the ... Red Sox

Former Rays OF/DH Jonny Gomes has a new home, and a nice contact - two years for a reported $10-millon - to go with it.

And his ex-mates will be seeing a lot of him as he is signing with the Red Sox.

In addition to his power against left-hand pitching, Gomes is known for his strong clubhouse presence and leadership, as well as his willingness to stick up for teammates.

The Rays saw that several times during his tenure, ironically most during a 2008 brawl in Boston, for which he was suspended five games,

After word got out that Gomes - who turns 32 on Thursday - was close to the deal, the San Francisco Chronicle's Susan Slusser reported the terms.

Gomes was drafted by the Rays in 2001 and played with them from 2003-08. He then was with the Reds, Nationals and last year with the A's, for whom he hit 18 homers and had 47 RBIs in limited duty, with a .377 OBP.

He certainly has liked played against the Rays, going 10-for-29 (.345) with three homers, two off Joel Peralta last season that proved to be game-winners. …

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Beckham, Lee, Rivero, Romero added to 40-man roster

The Rays added four top prospects to their 40-man roster in advance of Tuesday's midnight deadline - infielders Tim Beckham and Hak-Ju Lee, lefthanded pitchers Felipe Rivero and Enny Romero.

Here is a link to some detail on the four added and to the story in Wednesday's Times.

Among those not added and thus eligilble to be taken in the Rule 5 draft are INF Cole Figueroa and 1B/OF Leslie Anderson.


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UPDATED: Peralta deal includes options thru '17

UPDATE, 4:35: Here are the terms of the Peralta deal, interesting that in return for the 2-year deal Peralta wanted the Rays get 3 one-year options with no buyout:

2013: $3M
2014: $3M
2015: Team option, $2.5M, no buyout
2016: Team option, $2.5M, no buyout
2017: Team option, $2.5M, no buyout

No incentives or award bonuses.

BREAKING: The Rays today made official the two-year deal $6-million deal with reliever Joel Peralta agreed to on Nov. 5.

Per the team release, the contract includes team options from 2015-17.

“We love Joel’s competitiveness and the impact he has on the younger pitchers in our bullpen,” Rays executive VP Andrew Friedman said in the release.  “He has been an integral part of our late-inning success and has proven that he can get big outs in the American League East.” 

Peralta, who turns 37 in March, was 2-6 with a 3.63 ERA and a career-high 84 strikeouts last season, allowing a .200 batting average and .254 on-base percentage while making 76 appearances, second most in the AL.  His 147 games over the last two seasons led the league.


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