LAKE BUENA VISTA — The four days of baseball's winter meetings turned out to be more talk than action for the Rays, but they headed back across Interstate 4 on Thursday confident there will be a payoff.
Specifically, in terms of a first baseman, as executive vice president Andrew Friedman expects a resolution shortly.
"In the next week, I feel very confident that we'll be able to figure something out," he said. "I think the conversations have kind of reached a point where I don't see them dragging on much longer than that time period. It's tough to say with an extremely high level of conviction, but I'd be surprised if it went past five, six, seven days."
The Rays' top choice is re-signing free agent James Loney, and there were some suggestions Thursday of movement that way. But it will be for less than the three-year, $27 million deal Loney is reportedly seeking, and there is competition from the Pirates and Brewers. If Loney, 29, doesn't return, the Rays seem headed into the trade market, with Ike Davis (Mets), Mitch Moreland (Rangers) and Justin Smoak (Mariners) the top choices. The Brewers talked with the Mets on Thursday.
Friedman wouldn't say if they were in control of the situation or waiting to hear back from an agent or team: "Just ongoing conversations."
There was talk all week about potentially trading ace LHP David Price, though no status updates from Friedman. The Mariners and Dodgers have been most speculated on, with a chance other teams are involved.
The Rays left last year's winter meetings and within days completed and announced the trade that sent RHP James Shields to the Royals for OF Wil Myers.
Asked if they had laid similar groundwork here, Friedman said: "We've had a lot of different discussions with teams on a lot of different fronts. I think some have more momentum than when we got here, and others less. There are some guys that we're targeting in trade that we're trying to figure out if we can line up that hopefully we'll be able to figure out soon."
RAYS REPORT: RHP Roberto Hernandez, a free agent after going 6-13 with a 4.89 ERA for the Rays last season, signed a one-year, $4.5 million deal to join the Phillies. … C Craig Albernaz, an Eckerd College product who spent eight years in the Rays' minor-league system, signed with the Tigers, saying it was a better opportunity for playing time. … RHP J.D. Martin, who was 16-4, 2.75 for Triple-A Durham last year, is headed to Korea, signing with Samsung, … The Rays didn't select anyone in the major-league portion of the Rule 5 draft of minor-leaguers and were pleased not to lose anyone either, "That's good," farm director Mitch Lukevics said. … In the minor-league portion, the Rays, for $12,000, took RHP Enderson Franco, a hard-throwing 21-year-old who was 2-5, 5.05 for Houston's rookie-level Greenville team, and lost C Omar Narvaez, who hit .267 for short-season Class A Hudson Valley, to the White Sox.
DRAFT BREEZE: The top pick in the major-league portion of the Rule 5 draft was Mitchell High product LHP Patrick Schuster, who was taken by Houston from Arizona, then traded to San Diego. Schuster, 23, had a 1.83 in 55 games for Class A advanced Visalia and will have a shot to be in the Padres bullpen.
MISCELLANY: OF Corey Brown, a Plant High product who has seen limited big-league action, was designated for assignment by Washington. … Former Rays OF Justin Ruggiano was traded by the Marlins to the Cubs. … RHP Joba Chamberlain agreed to a one-year, $2.5 million deal with the Tigers. … The Yankees have reportedly made a three-year, $24 million offer to 2B Omar Infante, who wants more. … Former Yankees 2B Robinson Cano's 10-year, $240 million deal with the Mariners was finalized. He tweeted thanks to New York's "amazing fans."