Monday, December 18, 2017
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.

Comments
Rays’ trade silence likely a short-lived phenomenon

Rays’ trade silence likely a short-lived phenomenon

LAKE BUENA VISTA — There were a lot of reasons the Rays didn’t start the process of trading some of their bigger-name, higher-paid players at last week’s winter meetings.Most obvious was them not finding the just-right deal to move closer Alex Colome...
Published: 12/16/17
No big deal for Rays at winter meetings, but it’s still coming

No big deal for Rays at winter meetings, but it’s still coming

LAKE BUENA VISTA — Here’s the one thing we definitely know:Rays officials headed home from the winter meetings and back across I-4 Thursday without making deals to trade any of their bigger-name, higher-paid players. Not closer Alex Colome, not third...
Published: 12/14/17
Are Tampa Bay Rays going to make a major deal involving Alex Colome, others? Well …

Are Tampa Bay Rays going to make a major deal involving Alex Colome, others? Well …

UPDATE, 4:02: It doesn't sound like the Rays and Cardinals will be making a deal today, Derrick Goold writing for the St. Louis Post Dispatch that Cardinals execs "leave the Walt Disney Dolphin resort with good feel for what Tampa Bay would be willin...
Published: 12/14/17
Rays re-sign pitcher Jonny Venters, among 13 invited to spring training

Rays re-sign pitcher Jonny Venters, among 13 invited to spring training

LAKE BUENA VISTA — LHP Jonny Venters got as far as Triple A in September. Now the former All-Star is positioned to make it all the way back to the majors for the first time since 2012, re-signing with the Rays and headlining Thursday’s announcement o...
Published: 12/14/17
Veteran Jonny Venters, prospect Joe McCarthy among 13 Tampa Bay Rays spring invitees

Veteran Jonny Venters, prospect Joe McCarthy among 13 Tampa Bay Rays spring invitees

Inspiring veteran LHP Jonny Venters and intriguing prospect 1B/OF Joe McCarthy are among 13 players invited to major-league spring training camp with the Rays.Others coming as a result of signing minor-league contracts with invites are: RHP R.J. Alan...
Published: 12/14/17
Tampa Bay Rays lose RHP Burch Smith in Rule 5 draft, keep Nick Ciuffo

Tampa Bay Rays lose RHP Burch Smith in Rule 5 draft, keep Nick Ciuffo

The Rays lost RHP Burch Smith in Thursday's Rule 5 draft but were happy to see him get an opportunity in Kansas City.They also were pleased to hang on to C Nick Ciuffo, who was left exposed but not selected.Smith, 27, was acquired from the Padres as ...
Published: 12/14/17
Live from Disney: Winter meetings update, day 4

Live from Disney: Winter meetings update, day 4

UPDATE, 11:09: RHP Steve Cishek, who was a very effective addition to the Rays pen last season, has reunited with pitching coach Jim Hickey, agreeing to a deal with the Cubs.UPDATE, 10:40: Like most teams, Rays officials are heading out of the meetin...
Published: 12/14/17
Disney-Fox deal gives ESPN control of local cable rights to Rays, Lightning games

Disney-Fox deal gives ESPN control of local cable rights to Rays, Lightning games

As part of its deal to buy a massive package of 21st Century Fox assets, Disney will acquire Fox Sports Regional Networks, which control the local cable rights to a slew of professional teams, including the Tampa Bay Rays and Tampa Bay Lightning.Assu...
Published: 12/14/17
Tampa Bay Rays making progress in trade talks

Tampa Bay Rays making progress in trade talks

Without getting into specifics – especially the who and the where – Rays officials are for the first time talking optimistically about making a trade before the winter meetings end Thursday.Speaking at around 5:15, senior VP Chaim Bloom s...
Published: 12/13/17

Winter meetings journal: Rays trade for money to sign top international free agent

LAKE BUENA VISTA — While most of the business conducted at the meetings impacts the big-league team one way or another, the Rays are working to finalize a move they hope pays off big sometime in the 2020s.In trading Wednesday to acquire $1 million in...
Published: 12/13/17