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Lobbying report: Tuesday at baseball's winter meetings

Marc Topkin wonders if the intense level of discussion about White Sox ace LHP Chris Sale is impacting the market for starters overall.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Marc Topkin wonders if the intense level of discussion about White Sox ace LHP Chris Sale is impacting the market for starters overall.

It's the most wonderful time of the year - if you like rumors, speculation, jumped-to conclusions and, undoubtedly, some outright fabrications about your baseball team and favorite players. That being said, we'll filter as best we can and present some of the chatter we're hearing in the hallways, media room and, of course, the late-night lobby during this week's winter meetings. Though there are high expectations for lots of action, be warned that the running joke has been that since the meetings are being held just outside Washington, D.C. that nothing likely will get done here:

* The Rays typically prefer to stay out of the headlines and rumor mills, so the lack of much chatter during the day Monday was not a suprose, and likely by design. But I also wonder if the intense level of discussion about White Sox ace LHP Chris Sale, primarily it seems with the Nationals, is impacting the market for starters overall. Not so much that RHP Chris Archer or RHP Jake Odorizzi is considered on even par with Sale, but that teams interested in Sale, and teams waiting to see who gets Sale, may be focused more on that.

* There doesn't seem to be a clear leader for C Wellington Castillo, in whom the Rays have strong interest. …

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Manfred: There has to be "end game" in Rays stadium bid or ...

Rob Manfred did not set any deadlines or issue any ultimatums, but said that at some point if there is no progress on a Rays stadium, the potential of relocation would have to be raised.

AP photo

Rob Manfred did not set any deadlines or issue any ultimatums, but said that at some point if there is no progress on a Rays stadium, the potential of relocation would have to be raised.

Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred has been saying for months that he is optimistic Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg will be able to get a new stadium and that if so the franchise can be successful in the Tampa Bay market.

But Monday - while stopping well short of a threat - Manfred said there eventually has to be some action.

Manfred, during a Q-and-A session at the George Washington University School of Business, did not set any deadlines or issue any ultimatums, but said that at some point if there is no progress the potential of relocation would have to be raised. …

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Selig 'optimistic' Sternberg, Rays can find solution in market

Bud Selig remains confident the Rays under principal owner Stuart Sternberg can resolve their stadium situation in the Tampa Bay market.

AP photo

Bud Selig remains confident the Rays under principal owner Stuart Sternberg can resolve their stadium situation in the Tampa Bay market.

Former commissioner and new Hall of Famer Bud Selig said Monday he remains confident the Rays under principal owner Stuart Sternberg can resolve their stadium situation in the Tampa Bay market and be successful.

"I have faith Stu is really determined to work something out and I think he will,'' Selig said. "I'm actually optimistic that he will."

Sternberg and the Rays have been looking at sites in both Tampa and St. Petersburg, with the expectation of narrowing the field before the start of next season.

Selig said the Rays faced a less complicated situation than in Oakland, where the A's have also have to navigate around the Giants territorial rights and influence in trying to get a new stadium.

"(Tampa Bay) that's a little different because I think Stu and I always agreed,'' Selig said.

In October, current commissioner Rob Manfred told the Times he remained "positive about the prospects for a stadium derivative of the fact that Stu is positive about the prospects."

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Rays Alex Cobb changes agents, signs on with BHSC

Alex Cobb is expected to be ready for a full season with the Rays, though his pending free agency could led them to trade him.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Alex Cobb is expected to be ready for a full season with the Rays, though his pending free agency could led them to trade him.

Heading into his final season before free agency, Rays RHP Alex Cobb has changed agents, signing on with the Beverly Hills Sports Council. Cobb had been with New York-based ACES, led by the Levinson brothers.

"I really don't like the business side of baseball, but I thought this would be the best fit for my family and I on and off the field,'' Cobb told the Tampa Bay Times. "I do want to thank ACES for everything they've done for me in the past and look forward to my time with BHSC.''

Cobb, 29, was discussing a long-term deal with the Rays when he hurt his elbow during spring training 2015 resulting in Tommy John surgery that forced him to miss all of that seasoon and much of 2016, returning in September.

Cobb is expected to be ready for a full season with the Rays, though his pending free agency could led them to trade him during - or even before - the season.

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Lobbying report: Monday at baseball's DC winter meetings

Marc Topkin is not convinced the Rays will trade pitcher Chris Archer.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Marc Topkin is not convinced the Rays will trade pitcher Chris Archer.

It's the most wonderful time of the year - if you like rumors, speculation, jumped-to conclusions and, undoubtedly, some outright fabrications about your baseball team and favorite players. That being said, we'll filter as best we can and present some of the chatter we're hearing in the hallways, media room and, of course, the late-night lobby during this week's winter meetings. Though there are high expectations for lots of action, be warned that the running joke has been that since the meetings are being held just outside Washington, D.C. that nothing likely will get done here: …

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Rays likely to tender all 11 arbitration-eligible players

The Rays are expected to tender contracts by tonight's 8 p.m. deadline to their MLB-most 11 players eligible for arbitration.

That group includes three who qualified under the Super 2 provision based on service-time, which teams sometimes try to manipulate by limiting call-ups early in player's career - RHP Danny Farquhar, INF Tim Beckham and OF Kevin Kiermaier.

Kiermaier, with 2 years and 131 days service, was believed to be right at the cutoff, which includes the top 20 percent of the players with 2-3 years service. As a result, he and the others get to be eligible for arbitration four times rather than the standard three.

Teams have until 8 p.m. tonight to decide, with the players who are non-tendered becoming free agents. With needs for relievers, a catcher and an outfielder/DH and free-agent prices high, the Rays may benefit from the additional inventory, or even be able to make a trade today to get a player who otherwise would be let go elsewhere. …

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Silverman: Rays "disappointed" at lack of small-market help in CBA

Tampa Bay Rays president of Baseball Operations Matt Silverman talks with reporters during a pre-Winter Meetings luncheon held at Tropicana Field on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Tampa Bay Rays president of Baseball Operations Matt Silverman talks with reporters during a pre-Winter Meetings luncheon held at Tropicana Field on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016.

Full details of the new collective bargaining agreement are still being finalized and distributed, but Rays baseball operations president Matt Silverman said they haven't particularly liked what they've heard in terms of getting help to close the gap in competitive balance. …

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MLB, union facing midnight deadline for new labor deal

Major League Baseball, despite immense industry-wide profits, could be hours away from its first labor shutdown in more than 20 years.

After an all-night session Tuesday near Dallas, negotiators for the owners and players union will resume talks today spurred by the urgency of the midnight expiration of the current deal - and to save what is nearly a $10-billion industry enjoying immense popularity following the Cubs World Series win from damaging itself.

If they don't reach agreement, the owners have said they are willing to impose a lockout, which while sounding ominous wouldn't initially have much major impact from the fans' perspective except to stop off-season signings and trades and render next week's winter meetings basically moot. (There are other implications we'll get back to shortly.)

Another option, one already being talked about, is that assuming there is reasonable progress toward a deal to negotiate an extension to the current agreement, allowing talks to continue for a few more hours, days, even weeks.

Unlike past labor battles, there is not one key divisive issue in these talks, instead a combination of smaller points that have created a divide. …

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Steve Geltz claimed on waivers by Brewers

RHP Steve Geltz, who was DFA'd last week by the Rays to create roster space, was claimed on waivers by the Brewers.

Geltz made the Rays opening day roster, but pitched his way back to the minors with a rough start, troubled particularly by the long ball. Overall, he posted a 5.74 ERA in 27 games for the Rays, allowing 11 home runs in 26 2/3 innings.

The year before, he was one of the Rays more effective relievers, posting a 3.74 ERA over 70 games, allowing only eight home runs in 67 1/3 innings.

Geltz, 29, was acquired in a spring 2013 trade for RHP Dane De La Rosa. Over parts of three seasons with the Rays he was 2-9, with 2 saves and a 4.22 ERA.

 

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Butter up! Rays Montgomery team unveils flaky new hat design

The look of new Biscuits lid - available to fans, not to worn in games.

MONTGOMERY BISCUITS

The look of new Biscuits lid - available to fans, not to worn in games.

Butter up! The Rays always creative-thinking Double-A Montgomery Biscuits team decided to hold a "Design A Hat" contest and came up with quite the winner.

Chicago-based artist Jesse Alkire's "Biscuit Lid" design was chosen in a fan vote of five finalists, and it certainly is eye-catching - and flaky, buttery, and maybe even a bit mouth-watering.

The pictures do much better than any words, but here is how the Biscuits tried:

"The hat features orange and yellow layers resembling a biscuit, with butter separating the layers. Alkire described the hat as "baseball's first hat design fresh baked to look like a fluffy biscuit." The layering also resembles the classic pillbox style hat, a throwback style popularized in the early 20th century and again in the 1970's.''

The new hat - which, Rays minor leaguers will be happy to know won't be worn on the field - will be available on biscuitsbaseball.com and at the team store, with pre-order opportunities available soon.

 

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Jason Castro catches on with Twins for a reported $24.5-million

Rays target Jason Castro agreed to a three-year deal with the Twins for a reported $24.5-million.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Rays target Jason Castro agreed to a three-year deal with the Twins for a reported $24.5-million.

The Rays interest in free-agent C Jason Castro came to an end as the price soared, with Castro agreeing on Tuesday to a three-year deal with the Twins for a reported $24.5-million.

The Times reported on Friday that the Rays had made an initial offer and per agent Fred Wray were "right in the thick of things" to land the former Astros starter.

But with the Twins, Braves and several other teams interested, the price quickly escalted for Castros, who is known as a top pitch-framer but was inconsistent at the plate, hitting .210 last year and .215 over the past three seasons with a .660 OPS.

 

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A look at Rays 40-man roster

After last week's series of moves, here is an updated look at the Rays 40-man roster, with more changes coming as they have a deadline next week on tendering contracts and will make space for some additions, such as another catcher.

Pitchers (24)
Jose Alvarado*
Matt Andriese
Chris Archer
Brad Boxberger
Xavier Cedeno*
Alex Cobb
Alex Colome
Jacob Faria
Danny Farquhar
Dylan Floro
Eddie Gamboa
Ryan Garton
Taylor Guerrieri
Chih-Wei Hu
Jake Odorizzi
Austin Pruitt
Erasmo Ramirez
Enny Romero*
Jamie Schultz
Drew Smyly*
Blake Snell*
Ryne Stanek
Chase Whitley
Hunter Wood
* - lefthanders

Catchers (3)
Curt Casali
Luke Maile
Justin O'Conner

Infielders (8)
Willy Adames
Tim Beckham
Ryan Brett
Matt Duffy
Logan Forsythe
Evan Longoria
Brad Miller
Daniel Robertson

Outfielders (5)
Corey Dickerson
Nick Franklin
Kevin Kiermaier
Mikie Mahtook
Steven Souza Jr.

 

 

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Ex-Rays Burrell, Ramirez among 19 new Hall of Fame candidates

Pat Burrell hits a double during a 2010 game against the Royals.

JAMES BORCHUCK | Times (2010)

Pat Burrell hits a double during a 2010 game against the Royals.

Two players who had short and unsuccessful stints with the Rays - Pat Burrell and Manny Ramirez - are among 19 new candidates on the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot released Monday.

Of more significance, Ramirez is joined by catcher Ivan Rodriguez, outfielder Vladimir Guerrero and shortstop Edgar Rentería among the group of newcomers.

They join 15 holdovers, led based on votes received last year by 1B Jeff Bagwell, along with OF Tim Raines, RHP Trevor Hoffman and RHP Curt Schilling.

Ballots were mailed to more than 400 voting members of the BBWAA, with 75 percent of the ballots cast needed for election. Results will be announced Jan. 18.


The ballot:
Jeff Bagwell
Casey Blake
Barry Bonds
Pat Burrell
Orlando Cabrera
Mike Cameron
Roger Clemens
J.D. Drew
Carlos Guillén
Vladimir Guerrero
Trevor Hoffman
Jeff Kent
Derrek Lee
Edgar Martínez
Fred McGriff
Melvin Mora
Mike Mussina
Magglio Ordóñez
Jorge Posada
Tim Raines
Manny Ramírez
Edgar Rentería
Arthur Rhodes
Iván Rodríguez
Freddy Sánchez
Curt Schilling
Gary Sheffield
Lee Smith
Sammy Sosa
Matt Stairs

 

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Rays trade Motter and Shaffer to Mariners, add 8 prospects to roster

UPDATE, 7:43: The Rays added eight prospects to their 40-man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 draft: INF Willy Adames, LHP Jose Alvarado, RHP Chih-Wei Hu, INF Daniel Robertson, RHP Austin Pruitt, RHP Jaime Schultz, RHP Ryne Stanek, RHP Hunter Wood.

DEVELOPING: In working to clear space to add promising young players to their roster, the Rays shipped out two players who they previously had considered prospects, trading INF Richie Shaffer and INF/OF Taylor Motter to the Mariners for three minor-leaguers. …

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Rays "right in the thick of things" for free-agent C Jason Castro

The Rays have made an "initial" offer to free-agent C Jason Castro and are "right in the thick of things" among several teams, per agent Fred Wray of ISE Baseball.

Castro, 29, is on the market after playing the last six seasons with the Astros, earning a reputation as a top pitch framer. He has been inconsistent offensively, posting a .210 average and .684 OPS last season, but hits lefthanded and has some power, which could pair well with either of the Rays right-handed hitting catchers, Curt Casali and Luke Maile.

"Rays have made an initial offer and are right in the thick of things and being considered by Jason,'' Wray said via text.

Wray said there is no timetable yet for a decision, that they are "are working through multiple offers and weighing options/opportunity.''

The Rays have competition for Castro, who is considered the second best healthy catcher on the free-agent market after Matt Wieters (Orioles). Wilson Ramos (Nationals) is expected to be sidelined into the season as he recovers from knee surgery. The Twins and Braves are both known to be among the teams interested, and the White Sox may be as well.

Castro made $5-million last season after losing an arbitration case against the Astros, having made $4-million in 2015. There have been some reports suggesting he is seeking at least a three-year deal, but Wray said it was too soon to be that specific.

Castro was an All-Star in 2013, when he hit .276 with 18 homers, 56 RBIs and an .835 OPS, but has not been as productive since, hitting .215 while averaging 12 homers and 40 RBIs in the three seasons since with a .660 OPS. …

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