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Tampa Bay Rays, pitcher Andy Sonnanstine avoid arbitration

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays wrapped up the arbitration process Tuesday by agreeing to terms on a one-year, $912,500 deal with Andy Sonnanstine.

Eligible for the first time, Sonnanstine more than doubled his $416,900 salary from last season, when he went 3-1 with a 4.44 ERA in primarily long relief over 41 games.

Executive vice president Andrew Friedman said they were pleased to have deals with Sonnanstine and B.J. Upton done. "It allows us the opportunity to allocate even more time toward adding more players to our core, and for them to be able to focus exclusively on getting ready for the season," he said.

With spring training less than a month away, the Rays are seeking two or three more players.

They'd like one to be another reliever to handle late-inning and potentially closer duties, and with the free agent market just about bare, they are more likely to explore trade possibilities. The Pirates, who have (former Ray) Evan Meek and Joel Hanrahan as potential closers and numerous needs, could be one team of interest.

Another is to add more production to their offense, with Vladimir Guerrero considered the most appealing of the remaining candidates. "I'm confident we're going to be able to bring in a hitter or two from the outside to help us score runs," Friedman said.

More Rays news:

• Reliever Grant Balfour said he was very appreciative of the opportunity the Rays gave him but excited now about joining the A's, who gave him the multiyear deal he was seeking ($8.1 million over two seasons, plus an option). "I enjoyed my time (with the Rays), and if the opportunity was there to stay longer, I would have," he said. "But the A's gave me a nice deal, and I'm looking forward to going out there and continuing to pitch well."

• Shortstop prospect Hak-Ju Lee, acquired from the Cubs in the Matt Garza trade, told Korean journalist Kwang Min Park of OSEN he is confident of reaching the major leagues by the middle of this season. "If I get a chance, I think I can," said Lee, who is likely to start at Class A Charlotte.

• Third baseman Evan Longoria is among the celebrities playing in the Bob Hope Classic golf tournament starting today in California.

Around the league

PITCHER RETIRES: Royals right-hander Gil Meche retired at age 32, walking away from a $12 million salary rather than face shoulder surgery that could have ended his season before it started. Meche had shoulder problems last year while going 0-5 with a 5.69 ERA.

ARBITRATION ROUNDUP: First baseman Prince Fielder agreed to a $15.5 million contract with the Brewers in the largest one-year deal for a player not yet eligible for free agency. On a day when 67 of the 119 players who filed for salary arbitration reached agreements, AL MVP Josh Hamilton submitted the largest proposed salary, asking Texas for $12 million. The Rangers offered $8.7 million.

CUBS: Former Rays right-hander Matt Garza agreed to a one-year, $5.95 million deal, avoiding arbitration.

INDIANS: Mike Hargrove, a former player, coach and manager in Cleveland, is back as a special adviser.

TIGERS: The team said it will try to trade right-hander Armando Galarraga, who was designated for assignment shortly after agreeing to a $2.3 million, one-year contract.

Information from Times wires was used in this report.

Tampa Bay Rays, pitcher Andy Sonnanstine avoid arbitration 01/18/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 18, 2011 10:00pm]

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