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Tampa Bay Rays optimistic they'll make moves during winter meetings as AL East competitors get better

Third baseman Mark Reynolds, traded from the Diamondbacks to the Orioles, brings a lot of power and a lot of strikeouts to Baltimore.

Associated Press

Third baseman Mark Reynolds, traded from the Diamondbacks to the Orioles, brings a lot of power and a lot of strikeouts to Baltimore.

LAKE BUENA VISTA — The Rays had an "extremely productive" first day at the winter meetings Monday, making enough progress in trade discussions and free-agent negotiations that executive vice president Andrew Friedman went so far — relatively speaking, given his usual cautiousness — to say he "wouldn't be surprised if it yielded something over the next couple days."

But as the Rays talked about acquiring the first of the four-six relievers they need to restock their bullpen and one or two power bats to add to their lineup, two of their AL East opponents got better: The Red Sox finalized their acquisition of first baseman Adrian Gonzalez — whom Padres GM Jed Hoyer predicts "to be a monster at Fenway Park," and ESPN's John Kruk called "Wade Boggs with power" — and the Orioles made a bid to boost their run production, acquiring slugging and swing-and-missing third baseman Mark Reynolds from Arizona for relievers Daniel Hernandez and Kam Mickolio.

"It's something that when you play in this division, you anticipate it," Friedman said. "You expect there will be big-name players coming into this division every offseason. You can kind of interchange the names year over year, but it's a fact of life. It's what happens.

"It further reinforces that we have to go about it differently than they do, and we embrace that and I think have fared pretty well in our own little niche in the recent past. And we'll have to continue to be mindful of what our challenges are and how we need to operate to have success."

For the Rays this year, that means balancing a series of priorities as they decide, for example, whether to go through with a trade of Jason Bartlett, whether to spend their limited funds now or wait to see if any bargains emerge in January or February and what to do first, grabbing a hitter they might like or addressing the bigger need in the bullpen.

"We're kind of coming into these meetings with a two-pronged attack," Friedman said. "One side of it is to try to address our most acute needs, specifically if we look ahead to 2011, it's fairly obvious to say that's in the bullpen.

"There's also bigger-picture type moves that some help us a lot in 2011 and some don't help us much in 2011 and help us more down the road. It's something that we're juggling and discussing and trying to figure out what makes the most sense for this organization for 2011 and beyond."

Friedman is looking to get one or two of the relievers in trade, and there appears to still be a market for Bartlett, with the Orioles, Padres and Pirates all acknowledging Monday that they are looking to upgrade at short, and the Giants still a possibility. (St. Louis GM John Mozeliak told the Post-Dispatch that rumors of their continued interest were not true.) What the Rays might have to decide is whether to obtain a reliever who is more established and can step into a key role now or — more likely — who has a higher upside for the future.

The hitters, Friedman said, are "more likely" to come off the free agent market, which goes back to the question of which area to address.

"When the first domino falls for us," Friedman said, "it's going to help a lot in terms of shaping what other decisions we make."

Times staff writer Joe Smith contributed to this report.

Tampa Bay Rays optimistic they'll make moves during winter meetings as AL East competitors get better 12/06/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 7, 2010 7:52am]
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