Friday, January 19, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Free agent market may be working in Rays' favor

The Rays have spent much of the offseason talking trades, with the Cubs and Rockies among others, in an effort to add a hitter. But with a glut of players still on the free agent market and prices dropping as spring training nears, they are in position to at least explore some unexpected options.

Such as, Ian Desmond and even Justin Upton.

Or, more realistically, Pedro Alvarez or Steve Pearce.

Though it would take some extremely creative negotiating, with discounts to compensate for the lost draft pick, the Rays could emerge as players if Upton or Desmond were interested in a one-year "pillow" contract to rebuild their value.

More likely, they will set their sights a shelf lower. Pearce, the Lakeland product let go by Baltimore, would be a good fit given his tenacity and versatility. Alvarez, non-tendered by Pittsburgh, would bring needed lefty power. Marlon Byrd (last with the Giants), Justin Morneau (Rockies), David Murphy (Angels) are among others of legit interest.

The Rays have not given up on the trade route. They have what they consider a surplus of pitching, though they may feel better about trading a starter (Jake Odorizzi? Drew Smyly?) while the market may be more conducive to dealing a reliever, with Jake McGee most likely. The Cubs still have Javier Baez and also Jorge Soler, the Rockies Corey Dickerson and also Charlie Blackmon, and there are certainly other possibilities.

Though a lefty swinging outfielder would seem the best fit, the Rays can be flexible. To add a free agent, they'd need the blessing of principal owner Stuart Sternberg, who previously has been willing to expand the payroll for unexpected additions, such as Rafael Soriano and Grant Balfour part II.

It would help if they could first find a taker for 1B James Loney, even if they have to pay some of his $8 million salary, to clear a space. There should be a more defined market now that Chris Davis has re-signed with the Orioles.

Still, the timing could be tricky, as the Rays may have to balance waiting out one of the free agents vs. making a trade when it's on the table. But as mid January cedes to late, they have more options than they would have expected.

TED TALK: Alex Rodriguez, Alan Trammell, Dante Bichette, Roy Halladay, Billy Wagner and Dave Eiland are among the honorees at the Feb. 6 Ted Williams Museum induction dinner at the Trop, hosted by Rays ace Chris Archer. Tickets, which include a free autograph session featuring Rays CF Kevin Kiermaier, Hall of Famers Wade Boggs and Bert Blyleven and many others, are $125. Call 727-534-5343 or email [email protected]

RAYS RUMBLINGS: Congrats to radio man Andy Freed, named Florida sportscaster of the year by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association. … Two interesting takeaways from the stadium search vote: one, Sternberg mentioning natural grass when at least a retractable roof seems mandatory; two, a clause that allows the Rays, if they find a site and initiate the process of leaving the Trop, to move up to 10 games during the final seasons to an out-of-area location, which really seems no more than an accommodation to potential MLB scheduling. … Fangraphs' initial 2016 projection has the Rays finishing 82-80, fourth in the AL East. … Congrats also to Carli Todd, who is leaving the team's PR staff to join the University of Texas as baseball SID. … A new 22-game ticket plan provides discounts, season-ticket privileges and an Archer emoji T-shirt. … Odorizzi and wife Carissa welcomed Rhett Walker Odorizzi on Dec. 27. … Archer told MLB Network he is going up two hat sizes, to 75/8, to accommodate his mushrooming mane. … The Rays are funding, and staff helping build, a Habitat for Humanity home in south St. Petersburg. … Approval for the late March trip to Cuba is expected, though not at this week's MLB owners meeting in Miami. … Though the Rays made no announcement, all coaches will return. … Gold Glover Kiermaier ranked seventh on MLB Network's Top 10 Center Fielders Right Now! show.

Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected] Follow @ TBTimes_Rays.

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