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Tampa Bay Rays make no deals but take plenty of notes at winter meetings

DALLAS — The Rays left the winter meetings without making any deals but with a better sense of what is realistic as they seek to fill holes at first base and DH, and seek to improve their offense and bullpen depth.

"It was a productive week for us from an information-gathering standpoint," executive VP Andrew Friedman said. "We feel like we're in a better position to understand the lay of the land and to narrow down the scope for kind of which domino we expect to go first.

"So there was a lot of productive internal and external conversations that I think are going to play a very pivotal role in the next month as we go about constructing our 25-man roster."

Most of their talks involved trading starting pitchers, with right-handers Wade Davis and Jeff Niemann considered most likely to go. The Reds, Royals and Marlins are among the teams with interest.

The Rays left last year's meetings in a similar position and on Jan. 8 made an eight-player deal that featured RHP Matt Garza.

Friedman said he couldn't compare the situations or say if a similar move was more or less likely. "It's hard because some things I thought had a chance have kind of gone away, and others I wasn't really focused on have risen up some," he said.

The Rays are also in pursuit of several free agents, including OF/DH Josh Willingham, though Friedman made it sound like the players weren't done shopping. "We're just waiting for the agents that we're talking to whittle it down from the 11 teams that are interested in their player," he said.

DRAFT BREEZE: The Rays didn't make any picks in the Rule 5 draft of minor-league players but lost two in the minor-league phase. INF Matt Sweeney, one of the three players acquired from the Angels for Scott Kazmir, was taken by Baltimore in the Double-A phase as the Rays gave up on him after 1½ seasons at Double-A Montgomery produced a .170 average, nine homers and 54 RBIs. They also lost C Gerardo Olivares, a 23-year-old who hit .298 at short-season Class A Hudson Valley, to Boston in the Triple-A phase.

OTHER DEALS: Pat O'Conner was unanimously re-elected president of Minor League Baseball, headquartered in St. Petersburg. … The Astros hired Cardinals executive Jeff Luhnow to fill their GM job. … RHP Aaron Harang agreed to a two-year, $12 million deal with the Dodgers.

Dodgers case: U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Gross said he would overrule an objection by Fox Sports and allow the Dodgers to sell the media rights to future games as part of the team's plan to exit bankruptcy.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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Rays manager Joe Maddon kicks off two weeks of charitable events tonight with a fundraiser at Tampa's 717 South restaurant (717 S Howard St.) from 5 p.m. to close, with Rays players and staff serving as guest servers and bartenders. The restaurant will prepare Joe's Thanksmas meal, which he will serve next week at the Sallie House and Salvation Army centers. Visit joesthanks for information.

Tampa Bay Rays make no deals but take plenty of notes at winter meetings 12/08/11 [Last modified: Thursday, December 8, 2011 8:52pm]
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