ST. PETERSBURG — Now that the Yankees are celebrating this year's championship, the Rays can start the real work in trying to win the next one.
They've already done some of their business, re-signing OF Gabe Kapler for a low price ($1,050,000) and picking up a live arm, RHP Jesse Chavez, in trade for 2B Akinori Iwamura, whom they were going to let become a free agent rather than pick up his $4.85 million option.
Next up are decisions, perhaps coming as soon as Monday, on their other options.
Bringing back LF Carl Crawford for $10 million is a no-brainer; the bigger question is if they get anywhere in the coming months on an extension.
Declining LHP Brian Shouse's $2 million option seems just as obvious.
C Gregg Zaun's $2 million option is more debatable. But until the Rays decide if they're going to stick with Dioner Navarro (who's in line for a raise in the $2.6 million to $3 million range through arbitration) as their front-line catcher, it's hard to commit to a backup. And others will be available. Expect Zaun's to be declined, with the idea they could keep talking.
Free agency is next. Players can file, and teams have exclusive rights to their own, through Nov. 19, with the market opening Nov. 20. RHPs Chad Bradford and Russ Springer filed, Jason Isringhausen can; none are expected back.
Executive VP Andrew Friedman heads to the GM meetings in Chicago this week with plans for lots of talking: "The GM meetings provide a great forum for us to continue the dialogue we have had with various teams … as well as initiate and listen to new ideas.''
Other key dates: Nov. 16 for AL rookie of the year announcement; Nov. 20 to set 40-man rosters; Dec. 7-10 for winter meetings deals; Dec. 12 to tender contracts.
SUCH A LEFTY: LHP J.P. Howell was to get married Saturday to Heather Hennessy then honeymoon in Bora Bora. Why there? "I don't even know where it is," Howell said. "I heard (Lance) Cormier talking about it and it sounded cool."
CRYSTAL BASEBALL: Stats guru Bill James projects big seasons in his 2010 Handbook for 3B Evan Longoria (.287, 37 HRs, 120 RBIs) and 1B Carlos Peña (.240, 36, 99) but not as much from 2B-RF Ben Zobrist (.281, 23, 75) and CF B.J. Upton (.266, 13, 59). He also has Crawford slowing down, with only 41 steals. His pitcher projections are mediocre: Matt Garza 12-10, 3.85 ERA; David Price 10-10, 4.30; James Shields 14-11, 3.80.
RAYS RUMBLINGS: You'd think the Rays would be better off with Bill Foster winning the St. Petersburg mayoral election over staunch stadium opponent Kathleen Ford, but that remains to be seen, which isn't a good thing. ... Though RHP Troy Percival filed for free agency, agent Paul Cohn said it was procedural and there are no plans for a comeback. … At $4.85 million, Iwamura becomes the highest-paid Pirate (and likely July trade bait). … In-person presentation of the 2008 AL Championship rings was completed Friday when LHP Trever Miller got his. … Adding three minor-league coordinators was a good investment in the future, allowing for more individualized coaching, especially at the lower levels. … Two names to watch: Matt Quatraro, who broadens his growing resume after four years as a minor-league manager by becoming a hitting coordinator; and Matt Arnold, a sharp guy who takes the new position of director of pro scouting. … Two prospects were named Topps players of the year in their leagues, OF Desmond Jennings (Double-A Southern) and RHP Alexander Colome (short-season A NY-Penn). … Was the record 42 percent increase from last year in World Series TV ratings solely because of the AL representative? … Betus.com has the Rays at 25-1 to win the 2010 World Series; bodog.com has them at 15-1.
Marc Topkin can be reached at email@example.com.