Sunday, April 22, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays' first base options thin

LAKE BUENA VISTA — There was finally movement on the first base market Wednesday, leaving the Rays better positioned to soon make a move of their own.

The Mariners actually acquired two, signing Corey Hart, who had seemed likely to return to the Brewers, and getting Logan Morrison from the Marlins. (Both also have outfield experience.)

That could be bad news for the Rays not only because two candidates went elsewhere, but the market for free agent James Loney, whom they hope to retain, is likely to escalate.

The Pirates already were interested, and now the Brewers and, potentially, the Angels (who Tuesday traded Mark Trumbo), might be willing to meet Loney's reported three-year, $27 million demand. The Rays won't pay that much though likely would do a multiyear deal.

Wednesday's moves could be good for the Rays in that Seattle's incumbent first baseman, Justin Smoak — a switch-hitting former first-round pick — is now on the market. And with more competition, the price for other candidates — specifically trades for Ike Davis (Mets) or Mitch Moreland (Rangers) — could come down. (Mets GM Sandy Alderson did say they are "not in the business of giving players away.")

Rays executive VP Andrew Friedman said there had been "positive momentum" as they were getting close to filling their biggest hole, with defense a priority, potentially "in the next few days," and they were "in good position to end up with a guy we like and feel like will help us win a lot of games."

Overall, Friedman said the Rays "had a number of mature conversations" under way. Other business includes trading C Jose Lobaton and, potentially, OF Matt Joyce, and adding bench players (Kevin Youkilis is a possibility) and bullpen help. They could need a starter if LHP David Price is traded and reportedly have expressed interest in LHP Johan Santana, among others.

RAYS REPORT: Today is the annual Rule 5 draft of minor-leaguers. The Rays are not expected to take anyone and don't have any players ranked among those likely to be taken. … Leading agent Scott Boras repeated his suggestion that the Rays should be relocated, mentioning Montreal and New Jersey. … Manager Joe Maddon hosts the kickoff to his Thanksmas charity events with a Friday evening fundraiser at the 717 South restaurant, 717 S Howard Ave., in Tampa.

CRACK DOWN: Baseball moved closer to banning home plate collisions, possibly as soon as this coming season, with a vote by the rules committee. Specific wording of the new rule has not been finalized. It will address the actions of catchers and baserunners, and both the owners and players union still have to grant approval. Alderson, the committee chairman, said the action was a result of the number of injuries stemming from collisions and specifically concussions.

More Mariners: Hart agreed to a one-year deal with $6 million guaranteed and $7 million in incentives. He sat out 2013 because of a torn meniscus and joint damage in his right knee. In 2012, he was second on the Brewers in homers with 30. Morrison, who had career highs of 23 homers and 72 RBIs in 2010, was acquired for reliever Carter Capps.

MISCELLANY: RHP Bartolo Colon, 40, an 18-game winner in 2013, agreed to a two-year, $20 million deal with the Mets. … Indians manager Terry Francona denied reports that ace RHP Justin Masterson was being offered in trades. … CF Matt Kemp's agent said the Dodgers told him they're not trading the two-time All-Star despite media reports. … The Orioles have an offer out to closer Grant Balfour, a former Ray. … Boras said OF Shin-Soo Choo, the top remaining free agent, has multiple offers. … Former Rays RHP Roberto Hernandez has drawn interest from the Cubs. … Pirates RHP Charlie Morton agreed to a three-year, $21 million extension through 2017.

Information from Times wires was used in this report.

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