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Tampa Bay Rays likely to leave winter meetings with no deals but foundations for future moves

DALLAS — The winter meetings may end up being all talk for the Rays. And that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Executive VP Andrew Friedman seems likely to head home today without making any deals — ending a four-year streak — but with progress toward future moves.

"We've in the last 24 hours had a number of productive conversations, some that have kind of been offshoots of talks that we had had in the preceding days," Friedman said Wednesday.

"Trades are so difficult to characterize, but I do feel there is decent momentum on a couple of fronts that have a chance to materialize. Whether that's in a day or in a month, that's tough to say. But there are certain spots where ideally we'd be more aggressive and (that we could) take care of so we could take care of other areas. It doesn't always work out that way."

The Rays are looking to fill vacancies at first base and DH and to improve their offense, and they have starters to deal, presumably preferring to part with Wade Davis or Jeff Niemann.

The Rays have talked to a number of teams — the Reds "several times," Cincinnati GM Walt Jocketty said — but nothing had developed. The Reds (1B Yonder Alonso) and Marlins (1B Gaby Sanchez) seem good matches, though the Rays likely would prefer a left-handed hitter at first base.

Bringing back Carlos Peña could work, though agent Scott Boras said he has received multiple inquiries and expects Peña, who made $10 million with the Cubs in 2011, to get multiyear offers.

The Rays continued to have interest in free-agent OF/DH Josh Willingham, a right-handed hitter who declined arbitration from Oakland. Boras said there is mutual interest in having DH Johnny Damon return.

Also:

• The Rays have an open roster spot but appear unlikely to make a selection in today's Rule 5 draft of minor-leaguers. .

Andres Reiner, the game's foremost expert on scouting and player development in Venezuela, retired at age 76. The Rays' academy in Venezuela is dedicated to him. "He is a true visionary and has left a tremendous legacy for our game," senior VP Gerry Hunsicker said.

MARLINS MANIA: The Marlins missed out on free-agent 1B Albert Pujols (who seems likely to stay in St. Louis but also was talking to the Angels) but continued their spending spree by signing LHP Mark Buehrle, who got $58 million over four years to follow manager Ozzie Guillen from the White Sox. And they were still pursuing LHP C.J. Wilson, who is also considering an offer from the Angels. That was after the Marlins introduced SS Jose Reyes, saying he was their top offseason target, and insisted Hanley Ramirez would accept a move to third base.

ELSEWHERE: The Padres acquired closer Huston Street from Colorado. … Ex-Rays RHP Dan Wheeler declined arbitration from Boston and remained a free agent. … The Angels signed RHP LaTroy Hawkins, and the Tigers were close with RHP Octavio Dotel. … SS Jimmy Rollins appeared headed back to the Phillies. … Boston's David Ortiz (voted the game's top DH), Toronto's Kelly Johnson and Milwaukee's Francisco Rodriguez accepted arbitration. Rodriguez is likely to be traded. … The Yankees won the bidding for Japanese INF Hiroyuki Nakajima.

MISCELLANY: Fox analyst Tim McCarver received the Hall of Fame Frick award. … Ex-Ray Scott Kazmir, released by the Angels, made a tough Dominican Republic debut, throwing 27 pitches and getting one out.

Tampa Bay Rays likely to leave winter meetings with no deals but foundations for future moves 12/07/11 [Last modified: Thursday, December 8, 2011 12:19am]
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