NASHVILLE — Rays executive VP Andrew Friedman was so thorough in his prep work for the winter meetings that he even already battled the cold that usually fells him during the annual session of late nights and stale air.
As Friedman arrives this morning, he should have plenty to talk about, looking to add up to a half-dozen players while holding an enticing surplus of much-desired starting pitching.
Discussing those possibilities is likely to fill most of his time — and most of the rumors that fly around the vast Opryland hotel — though some will be unrealistic and none may come to fruition.
But with James Shields, Jeremy Hellickson, Wade Davis and Chris Archer among the potential candidates, he has possibilities. And, for what it's worth, in an espn.com survey of 17 scouts, execs and agents, Shields was voted both the player most likely to be traded this week and the human trade rumor.
And if not this week, then maybe after.
"The winter meetings is a really good venue to facilitate and further conversations that you're having with agents and teams. It helps to spark conversations along," Friedman said. "We haven't typically done a whole lot at the winter meetings. But we have had a lot of really productive conversations that have manifested themselves into deals after."
Shields preferred not to discuss the rumors: "It's something I don't want to talk about right now."
MORE UNKNOWN: As the Rays eventually start adding players, they also need to determine how they deploy some of their returnees.
Friedman said they remain open on whether to slide Desmond Jennings to centerfield as the replacement for B.J. Upton or keep Jennings in left and find a centerfielder.
"We have a lot of confidence in Desmond to be an above-average centerfielder, and we have a lot of confidence in Desmond to be a well above-average leftfielder," Friedman said. "We have flexibility there that we value a lot."
They feel similarly about Ben Zobrist, though it seems likely he'll remain at shortstop with the decision to retain Ryan Roberts as the probable second baseman and many more available outfielders than shortstops.
Friedman said OF Brandon Guyer is in their plans, but they will be cautious as he is coming off shoulder surgery: "I expect that he'll knock the door down and create another opportunity for himself."
RUNDOWN: OF Raul Mondesi Jr., the minor-leaguer acquired from Milwaukee on Saturday for RHP Burke Badenhop, is a 20-year-old who has played three pro seasons — two in the Dominican Summer League and last year at the rookie-level Pioneer League — with a career .243 average and .675 on-base plus slugging percentage.
The son of the former NL All-Star by the same name, Mondesi made somewhat of a name for himself last summer when he hit what looked like a two-run 10th-inning game-tying homer but didn't touch home and was called out. A video is available at tinyurl.com/78bbw9g.
SOME RELIEF: The Rays have had "some good discussions" about bringing back free-agent RHP Kyle Farnsworth, who has interest in returning, agent Barry Meister said Sunday.
LOBBY CHATTER: Mets RHP R.A. Dickey stopped by, but to visit with team trainers, not close in on a new contract. … Top free agent OF Josh Hamilton was reported to be in Nashville, awkwardly/conveniently on the same flight as Rangers execs. ESPN's Jim Bowden says the Red Sox are among the interested teams. … Talks involving top free agent RHP Zack Greinke are expected to heat up. … OF Ichiro Suzuki's reps are reportedly reaching out to other teams rather than wait longer on the Yankees. … 1B Mark Reynolds, nontendered by Baltimore, is expected to get interest from several teams, including the Rays.