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Tampa Bay Rays already fighting off rumors at start of winter meetings

INDIANAPOLIS — Here is what the Rays were rumored and reported to have done Monday at the winter meetings:

Traded disappointing DH Pat Burrell to the Cubs, who then moved him to the Mets.

Expressed enough interest in acquiring Toronto free-agent-to-be pitcher Roy Halladay that foxsports.com reported they "might be willing" to offer centerfielder B.J. Upton and top pitching prospect Wade Davis.

Here is what the Rays actually did Monday:

Had talks with several teams and a few agents that left them with no "imminent" deals.

This is what the winter meetings 2009 are like, where the premium on reporting things first and expanding usage of nonauthoritative sources has created confusion for fans and a mess for team officials, agents and media.

"Like I've said many times," Rays executive vice president Andrew Friedman said Monday night, "there's a lot more hype than substance."

The idea of a Burrell-for-Milton Bradley trade — along with some multiteam variations — is hardly news; it has been talked about for weeks.

But Friedman was certainly surprised when he received an e-mail link to a phillyburbs.com report of the Burrell deal being done — especially since he was trying out the wireless Internet on an AirTran flight from Tampa to Indianapolis at the time.

"I don't know that anyone ever consummated a trade at 30,000 feet before," he said. "Apparently, we did."

That report was subsequently denied by all parties and taken off the site.

A couple of hours later, foxsports.com headlined a report that wasn't just incorrect but, in a word, preposterous: that the Rays would consider giving up two premium young players to get one year of Halladay. (Plus, they'd have to add his $15.75 million salary to their already strained payroll of just more than $60 million.)

The Rays have checked in on Halladay, as they do on almost all available players in their extensive efforts to be creative and resourceful, though they didn't talk to the Jays on Monday.

But they aren't in a position to either give up their young talent or make the financial commitment it would require to keep Halladay, no matter how good he is. (They could be in a position, however, of being used to drive up the price for the Yankees, Red Sox, Angels and other realistic Halladay suitors.)

The Rays' goals for the offseason are actually more modest, such as trying to make some relatively low-cost improvements to their bullpen.

"Most of our energy is being spent on the relief pitcher market, but we've got a couple other things out there that we're having conversations about," Friedman said. "Some of it is looking ahead to future years, and some of it would have an impact in '10, but I think we're approaching these meetings as we have every other meetings — which is we've got one eye on the present, one eye on the future."

They also are seeking to address their catching situation — either deciding to keep Dioner Navarro and Kelly Shoppach or trading/non-tendering one. Friedman said there is "not really any clarity right now" and it may carry up until Saturday's non-tender deadline.

They got word late Monday that lefty reliever Brian Shouse, as expected, declined arbitration. They will get a compensatory draft pick if he signs elsewhere, giving them six of the top 75 or so selections.

Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@sptimes.com.

Tampa Bay Rays already fighting off rumors at start of winter meetings 12/07/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 8, 2009 12:25am]
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