LHP Wesley Wright didn't stay unemployed for long after being non-tendered by the Rays on Monday, agreeing Wednesday night to a one-year, $1.425-million deal with the Cubs. The Rays said they would be open to possibly bringing Wright back later in the off-season, but there was immediate interest from several teams. He signed for close to what he was projected to make via arbitration had he stayed with the Rays.
Rays manager Joe Maddon had high praise for executive VP Andrew Friedman and staff in pulling off Tuesday's three-team trade to acquire reliever Heath Bell and catcher Ryan Hanigan for two minor-leaguers.
"Getting a late-inning, high-leverage, experienced reliever, like Heath, is necessary when it comes to getting to the playoffs, and advancing deeply,'' Maddon said via text message Wednesday.
"Then to have a starting catcher with Hanigan's ability and reputation to pull it all together makes planning with specific direction much easier and believable. Andrew and the boys had been working on this for a bit. Great job on their part!''Full Story
JAMES BORCHUCK | Times
James Loney had a solid 2013 overall for the Rays, hitting .299 with 13 homers, 75 RBIs and a .778 OPS, and playing his usual dazzling defense, being named a finalist for the Gold Glove award.
UPDATE, 3:20: Though Loney's new agents haven't been talking, Yahoo!'s Jeff Passan provided some framework for what Loney may be looking for based on this tweet: "James Loney started offseason seeking a four-year, $40M deal. Belief is he's now seeking something in the three-year, $27-30M range."
UPDATE, 2:29: Rays executive VP Andrew Friedman was much less specific on the pursuit of Loney:
"It's difficult for us to get into specifics. We're obviously looking for a first baseman. We need to figure out what we're going to do there,'' he said on a pre-winter meetings conference call. "But it's very premature to kind of speculate from our standpoint as to which direction we're going to go. What he meant to us last year, and the way he fit, has been very well documented. I just don't have a really good feel right now for how things are going to evolve.''
DEVELOPING: The Rays still need a first baseman, and team president Matt Silverman said this morning they are "hopeful" of re-signing free agent James Loney, who is also of considerable interest to the Pirates. …Full Story
Our colleague Stephen Nohlgren wrote all about the new flex ticket packages being offered and why the Rays are doing so in Tuesday's paper.
The team put out official details today, and here is that release: …Full Story
The Rays are set at catcher, with Ryan Hanigan, pictured, expected to play the bulk of the time, maybe 110 games, and Jose Molina able to serve, more appropriately, as a backup.
So where does Tuesday's three-way trade that landed C Ryan Hanigan and RHP Heath Bell leave the Rays?
Well for one, not finished.
They still need a first baseman, they could use another bat for the bench and maybe another reliever. They have to find a new home for Jose Lobaton. And there is that slight matter of deciding whether to trade ace David Price, which could lead to another roster shuffle. …Full Story
New Rays reliever - and potential closer - Heath Bell was one of the best in the game from 2009-2011, when he racked up 132 saves for the Padres with a 2.36 ERA.
But Bell, 36, acquired from Arizona Tuesday as part of a three-team deal, is coming off two disappointing seasons, including a 4.11 ERA in 2013.
Which Bell are the Rays getting? Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers, who saw Bell up-close as Padres GM in 2009 and dealt him Tuesday, believes the veteran still has "got a lot left in the tank." …Full Story
Here is the team release on the deal, the first three-team deal by Rays executive VP Andrew Friedman:
ST. PETERSBURG, FL-The Tampa Bay Rays have completed a three-team trade with the Cincinnati Reds and Arizona Diamondbacks, acquiring catcher Ryan Hanigan from Cincinnati and right-handed relief pitcher Heath Bell from Arizona. The Rays send minor league right-handed pitcher Justin Choate and a player to be named to Arizona, and the Diamondbacks send left-handed pitcher David Holmberg to Cincinnati. The Rays also receive cash considerations from Arizona.
The Rays and Hanigan agreed to a three-year contract extension covering the 2014, 2015 and 2016 seasons, with a club option for 2017, worth a guaranteed $10.75 million. In addition, Hanigan will make a donation to the Rays Baseball Foundation. …Full Story
The Rays are acquiring catcher Ryan Hanigan from the Reds and he is expected to take over as the starter.
UPDATE, 3:01: The Rays are also getting veteran reliever, and closer candidate, Heath Bell, in the deal, from Arizona, per multiple media reports. Bell, who is due $9-million in salary, told Jack Magruder: "I'm excited to be with a great team and Joe Maddon. I hear he is a lot like Buddy (Black). I think very highly of Buddy."
The Times has learned the exact terms of the Hanigan deal: $2,75-million in 2014, $3.5M in 2015, $3.7M in 2016 and either $3.75M or an $800,000 buyout in 2017.
UPDATE, 2:44: Make it $10.75-million guaranteed for Hanigan, and with the fourth-year option the Tom O'Connell client could make $13.7-million.
UPDATE, 2:32: Hanigan will get a three-year deal plus an option, and be guaranteed close to $11-million, the Times has learned. ESPN's Buster Olney first had the 3-year deal.
UPDATE, 2:24: Hanigan has agreed to a multiyear deal, as the trade has been in place since Saturday, pending negotiations with the Rays. …Full Story
Tampa Bay Rays
Rendering of what the new centerfield area will look like.
The Rays today released renderings of the new centerfield area, part of a major renovation planned at Tropicana Field.
The Rays are planning what is being referred to as 360-degree "interior stadium fan access" with the creation of walkways behind the outfield seating areas and opening up what was the dark, glass-fronted Batter's Eye restaurant into an open-air meeting spot with concessions.
"Fans can actually walk around the stadium without having to go into the concourse area," said Joe Zeoli, the city's managing director of development administration. "You will be able to watch the game as you move from left field to right field, for example.
"Most of the other items are maintenance," he said. "This item will kind of get everybody's attention."
The new deck will extend over the Rays tank. About 3,000 seats are being removed, so capacity now will be around 31,000. The 3,000 seat reduction includes tarping of some additional seats in LF and upper deck.
Here are more details, from Waveney Ann Moore's Nov. 14 story.Full Story
Having the non-tender deadline in early December forced the Rays to make some difficult choices, and the result was a decision to part ways with two players, popular OF Sam Fuld and LHP Wesley Wright.Full Story
Executive VP Andrew Friedman said they would have interest in re-signing both, but at this point in the off-season it was difficult to make decisions on complementary type players without knowing how the rest of their roster will come together over the next few months. …
The Rays late Monday made official their two-year, $4.5-million deal to bring back catcher Jose Molina.
Executive VP Andrew Friedman cited Molina's prep work and experience in guiding a young pitching staff and also said: "He has played a large role in the success that we've had on the run prevention side.''
There was interest from several teams in Molina, including the Cubs, who also made a two-year offer.
Molina will make $1,75-million in 2014, and $2.75-million in 2015, giving the Rays a slight amount of payroll flexibility this season. He also will donate $40,000 to the Rays Baseball Foundation.
Here is the team release officially announcing the deal, which was agreed to Nov. 21: …Full Story
Sam Fuld, left, and Sean Rodriguez are two of the players who are arbitration eligible.
UPDATE, 11:56: Friedman said the Rays would remain open to re-signing Wright, that
"This move isn't about his talent as much as it's about our current bullpen setup.''
Wright's agent, Larry Reynolds, said: "Wesley enjoyed his short time with the Rays and appreciated the opportunity. We both realize it's a business so obviously it's time to move on. I'm very confident that a pitcher with Wesley's resume will do fine.''
UPDATE, 11:05: LHP Wesley Wright was also non-tendered.
UPDATE, 8:59: Fuld said he knew it was a possibility, but that didn't make it any less disappointing.
"I would say I'm definitely more disappointed than I am surprised. ... It's upsetting just thinking about not being with these guys when I've had such a good experience. It's a little disheartening thinking ahead to next year ... ,'' Fuld said.
"I think that's part of why it's so upsetting tonight is that it was just a good fit. I felt so comfortable there. If there was a perfect organization to be a part of for me, I think Tampa Bay was it. It's difficult to think about being in a different uniform.'' …Full Story
Major League Baseball
Juan Carlos Oviedo spent 2013 with the Rays but didn't pitch in the majors as he completed rehab from Tommy John elbow surgery.
The Rays are set to add another piece to their bullpen as they are re-signing Juan Carlos Oviedo.
Oviedo, known formerly as Leo Nunez, spent 2013 with the Rays but didn't pitch in the majors as he completed rehab from Tommy John elbow surgery. Earlier this off-season the Rays declined a $2-million option.
Nunez had 92 saves from 2009-11 with the Marlins, and could be a key addition as the Rays seek to replace free-agent closer Fernando Rodney.
An announcement on Oviedo is expected next week, along with official word on Jose Molina's two-year deal to return.Full Story
Rays RHP Brandon Gomes, OF Matt Joyce and LHP Jake McGee are the honorary co-chairman for the Pinellas County Education Foundation's Ties and Tennis Shoes Gala at Tropicana Field on Dec. 6, doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets ($35 for general admission) can be purchased online through the foundation website, pinellaseducation.org.
From the event website:
"We cordially invite you to join us for our 2nd Annual Ties and Tennis Shoes Gala at Tropicana Field, a unique evening where you dress like a grown-up and play like a kid. Wear your favorite cocktail attire, but plan to complete your look with blinged-out sneakers! Enjoy delicious cuisine, shop at our ‘Tis the Season Shoppes, place your bid at our silent auction, visit our craft beer tables, challenge your friends and family to a jousting duel or test your skills at table tennis, battle bots, slap shot hockey, baseball, basketball and so much more."Full Story
General Admission: $35 includes Food, Games & Cash Bar (Beer & Wine)
VIP Admission: $125 includes Entry to Private VIP Party Suite, Food, Games, Beer & Wine Corporate Party Suites
The Rays today released their official spring training schedule, which appears below, and some basic ticket information.
First, the opening dates: Pitchers and catchers report to Port Charlotte on Feb. 14 and have their first workout on Feb. 15; the rest report on Feb. 19 and the first full-squad workout is Feb. 20.
Tickets: Single-game tickets will go on sale sometime in January, exact date TBA. Prices will be $10-29. Reservations for a "season ticket" for the 14 home games at Charlotte Sports Park are being accepted with a $100 deposit, via raysbaseball.com/springtraining or by calling 888-FAN-RAYS. …Full Story