Joe Maddon has been chilling out in California recently, which has worked out even better given the Jill Kelley circus playing out near his Tampa house.
He and executive VP Andrew Friedman have started chatting and will do so more frequently with the Dec. 2-6 winter meetings approaching.
And while their offseason has thus far been more talk than action, one thing Maddon made clear: They're not going to react, and definitely not overreact, to the moves that Toronto has made to make the AL East even more treacherous.
"I'm not worried about it," Maddon said. "We've talked about this before. We've gone through this with other teams, whether it's Boston or New York or whomever with all the different things they do in the offseason.
"Now Toronto's doing it. But it's about what we do and how we co-habitate and how we make ourselves better. Coming off 90 wins with all the issues that we had last year, that's still pretty impressive."
Maddon does acknowledge that the overall division is now even tougher, and the Blue Jays considerably better, though he wonders if they might flip some of the players coming from the Marlins and notes potential issues of playing on turf (i.e., SS Jose Reyes).
But, after mentioning Boston's ill-fated 2011 additions of Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, Maddon said, "Just because you acquire and get these really good players doesn't necessarily mean you're going to win, either."
What may be of more concern to the Rays are the early signs on the free agent market.
With 37-year-old OF Torii Hunter getting $26 million over two years from Detroit and performance-enhancing drug-tainted OF Melky Cabrera $16 million over two from Toronto — and even C Dioner Navarro getting $1.75 million from the Cubs — that's not promising for a team with limited resources seeking several impact bats.
Which could make it even more likely they have to trade from their stock of starting pitchers.
THE LIFE OF JOE: Thanks to mutual friends, Maddon had dinner last week with NBA legend Jerry West.
"I got to meet Joe Namath, John Havlicek and Jerry West in the same year," Maddon said. "That's a pretty good year."
FREE FOR ALL: RHP Joel Peralta had his physical last week, so the two-year, $6 million deal he agreed to Nov. 5 to return should be official early this week. … LHP J.P. Howell, who would like to return, said there are "a handful" of teams interested and wasn't sure how quickly a decision will come. The Angels might be one. … Free agent CF B.J. Upton, who has visited with the Braves and Phillies, has at least three other teams to talk with, including the Nationals and possibly the Giants. "I'm really blown away by the love other cities are showing me right now," Upton tweeted. "Can't wait to see how this pans out."
RAYS RUMBLINGS: If the Rays go ahead and add an extra coach as is being discussed, a name to keep in mind is Jamie Nelson, who worked with them some last year in his role as minor-league catching coordinator. … News/sports TV analyst Keith Olbermann, who has some ties to Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg, wrote on his mlb.com blog that the Marlins' mess makes it automatic the Rays end up moving and suggests Montreal. … Interesting that David Price won the AL Cy Young Award, but closer Fernando Rodney and Detroit's Justin Verlander got more MVP votes. … The reason ever-popular Astro wasn't with Price on announcement night? Doggie boot camp. … 3B Evan Longoria's Tampa's Got Wings program with Red Bull raised money last week for improvements at Seminole's Cross Bayou field. … LHP Scott Kazmir, who is only 28, is still trying to get back to the big leagues, pitching this winter in Puerto Rico. … Trop scorer Bill Mathews is working the WBC qualifier in Panama. … This didn't take long: Price Cy Young T-shirts are on sale at the team's Tampa store ($26-$27).
Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]