LAS VEGAS — The Rays know about the power, on-base percentage and clubhouse presence Jason Giambi could add to their team.
They got a sense of his personality and flair during a late-night dinner Monday at the trendy N9NE Steakhouse, including manager Joe Maddon being summoned to the kitchen for a photo with celebrity chef Barry Dakake and Giambi.
"I've always been a fan of his," Maddon said. "I just like the zeal with which he plays the game. I know from other people he's a great teammate, not just a good teammate, and he's still got a lot left in the tank. … He's the kind of guy that makes everybody better that's around him."
Giambi, 37, was the second free-agent hitter the Rays held a get-to-know session with at the winter meetings, after Milton Bradley. Executive vice president Andrew Friedman said he spoke on the phone Tuesday with a third he wouldn't identify. They'll talk to Bobby Abreu's reps as soon as today, and likely with Raul Ibanez's agent soon as well.
Giambi has been rumored to be looking to return to Oakland, but Friedman said he raved during the meeting about the good things he heard from Rays players last season and greatly enjoys the Tampa Bay area.
"I think the interest is genuine on both sides," Friedman said.
The Rays would prefer a right-handed hitter "in a perfect world," Friedman said, but "it speaks volumes to what we think about him as a player that we have the interest that we do."
Giambi hit .247 with 32 homers and 96 RBIs last season for the Yankees while making $21-million and is headed for a hefty pay cut. As with Bradley, he would bring an experienced bat with a knack for working good at-bats (career .408 on-base percentage). "He's got a lot of characteristics that we look for in a hitter and his track record speaks for itself," Friedman said.
Friedman said they were not at the point of advancing talks.
"There's a number of other guys that we have interest in, that we've talked to their agents in the past" and will try to set up meetings, he said.
"I think it's pretty early in the process, but things could change. I think we're in a position to react if it does. We have a pretty good sense of what we'd like to accomplish. There's different complicating factors that could play out that would make it a little more difficult, but I don't get the sense from the guys we're talking to that anything's imminent, so we'll continue our methodical due diligence and hopefully have a better sense of what the best fit is in time."
Giambi told Newsday he didn't know where he would sign. "It's slow out there," he said. "Nothing's getting done yet."
Friedman also continued trade talks on several fronts, with the possibility of adding another hitter, or bolstering the bullpen. "There's nothing that's imminent, but at least one thing that has some legs," he said.
It's not a deal, however, to reacquire outfielder Delmon Young from Minnesota. While the Rays won't rule that out, they are not in active talks.
• Friedman said being named organization of the year by Baseball America was a great honor: "There's years of work that have gone into this and it's really a testament to our entire department: our scouts, our minor-league staff, our major-league staff, our players that really bought into this long-range plan and helped it to materialize as early as we could have hoped."
• The international program was expanded, with Tim Ireland hired as their first Pacific Rim scouting coordinator. Ireland, a former minor-league manager and scout who had the same position with Colorado, will have responsibilities for Japan, Korea and Taiwan.
• Dave Myers, a former big-league coach with Seattle, has been hired as Triple-A hitting coach, replacing Gary Gaetti.
• The Rays will add a seventh minor-league affiliate as they return to the rookie-level Gulf Coast League with the team playing in Port Charlotte.