NASHVILLE — With David Price, Zack Greinke and several of the other big-name free agent starters signing, teams arrived at the winter meetings Sunday starting to shift their attention to the bullpen.
And with the Dodgers reportedly closing in on acquiring Reds LH closer Aroldis Chapman, the Orioles apparently bringing back RH Darren O'Day and RH Ryan Madson going to the A's, the Rays may quickly become popular conversation partners as they can deal from the potential depth of having both LHP Jake McGee and RHP Brad Boxberger.
The Astros are one of the teams interested, and the Cubs are emerging as another potential partner given their depth of young position players. The Diamondbacks, Nationals, Twins and Blue Jays are among other teams looking for bullpen help.
The Rays are in a good position in that they don't have to deal either Boxberger, who is under team control through 2019 and making only about $550,000 as a pre-arb player, or McGee, who will make around $5 million and isn't a free agent until 2018.
If they do, word is they would want back a player, or players, who can help the current team, which they consider playoff-caliber. Otherwise, they can hang on to both for this season then if they want deal one for prospects, in July or next offseason.
TAKE A BREATH: No matter how busy the Rays may be this week, they figure to be in better shape than last year.
Matt Silverman was still adjusting to his new role as the chief of baseball operations, was days removed from hiring Kevin Cash to replace Joe Maddon as manager and was in the process of reorganizing onfield and front-office staff.
"The pace is always crazy — it's frenetic at this time of year," Silverman said. "But it feels much more manageable than it did compared to last year. To borrow a line from our former manager, a mind once stretched never regains its past form. We were stretched last year. We were challenged. So it feels different heading into the winter meeting this year having gone through what we did last year."
Silverman offered the analogy of a new teacher.
"The first is the most difficult because you're doing everything for the first time — your lesson plans, meeting parents and students, it's all new," he said. "And then the second year, you understand what to expect and it's much more about building upon the foundation you've established.
"And that's what we're able to do this year without the constant fear or surprise of the unknown, having not gone through it before."
RAYS RUMBLINGS: The Rays should know today if OF Joey Butler, who was designated for assignment last week, cleared waivers; if so, they hope to re-sign him to a minor-league deal. … LHP Johnny Venters and possibly RHP Neil Wagner could provide in-season bullpen help. Both have progressed enough in lengthy Tommy John rehabs to be spring training invitees, though not necessarily ready for game action. Both will need some time in the minors.
AROUND THE MAJORS: The Dodgers are looking to get Chapman for a package of prospects. They also are bringing back 2B Chase Utley and are close to signing RH starter Hisashi Iwakuma, who had been with Seattle. … O'Day reportedly agreed to stay with the Orioles on a four-year, $31 million deal, though he tweeted the agreement was not final. … Madson got a reported three-year, $22 million deal from Oakland. … INF Asdrubal Cabrera, who left the Rays as a free agent, is reportedly deciding between three-four teams including the Mets. … The Royals are among the teams interested in ex-Rays LHP Scott Kazmir.
Information from Times wires was used in this report.