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Tampa Bay Rays see patience as a virtue in hunt for upgrades

ACE IN WAITING: Matt Moore, who dazzled in a late callup and in the AL Division Series, moved up from No.  2 to the top of Baseball America’s Rays prospect rankings.

JAMES BORCHUCK | Times

ACE IN WAITING: Matt Moore, who dazzled in a late callup and in the AL Division Series, moved up from No.  2 to the top of Baseball America’s Rays prospect rankings.

Just call him Mr. January. Again.

While executive VP Andrew Friedman has explored numerous ways to improve the Rays offense in filling the first base and DH spots, he is comfortable going into next month before making any big deals, much as he did last offseason.

The way the Rays see it, patience is not only a virtue but even an advantage.

Without financial resources to pre-empt the free agent market, the Rays are accustomed to waiting to bargain shop as prices drop.

"We're not in the right revenue environment to be able to not be patient," Friedman said.

Plus, by waiting, they feel they get a broader look at all possibilities, with additional trade opportunities being presented as other teams reassess their plans.

"It can be very valuable to wait," Friedman said. "So it's not all bad."

While several free agents have come off the board (Carlos Beltran, Josh Willingham) and other teams have traded starting pitchers (Gio Gonzalez, Mat Latos), the Rays feel good about their remaining possibilities.

What they have to consider, given a limited amount of payroll flexibility and some lesser priorities (another catcher and reliever), is what amounts to a series of paths to head down.

For example, if they land a big-bucks DH, they'd likely have to fill first base by trading for a young, minimum-salaried player (San Diego's Anthony Rizzo? L.A. Angels' Mark Trumbo?). If they invest in a veteran first baseman (Carlos Peña?), they'd more likely have to fill the DH slot with complementary pieces.

So, as usual with the Rays, it's not a simple process.

"Once the first domino falls, it will certainly limit the scope for us," Friedman said. "Right now we have so many different ways we can go, we're trying to figure out which way to go and where to lock in first."

PROSPECTING: After the obvious choice of LHP Matt Moore as No. 1, Baseball America's top 10 prospects ranking got interesting, with SS Hak-Ju Lee second, 2011 top pick RHP Taylor Guerrieri fourth, SS Tim Beckham re-emerging at No. 7 and the disappearance of 2010 first-rounder OF Josh Sale. Writer Bill Ballew lauded the overall depth but cited a "lack of top-shelf prospects" after Moore and Lee and said the Rays were no longer in MLB's top three.

RAYS RUMBLINGS: RHP Joel Peralta is skipping winter ball at the Rays' request, agent Mark Gilling said, but is working out daily and has lost a few pounds. … C Robinson Chirinos, who broke his right wrist in October, is taking batting practice in Venezuela and looks to start playing games in January. … Latest chatter aside, ex-Yankee Jorge Posada sounds like much more of a backup plan. … OF prospect Todd Glaesmann's Australian Baseball League stint ended early due to a right wrist injury, but he is expected to be ready for spring training. … Former C Toby Hall, who announced his retirement last week, hopes eventually to manage. … Jason Grey, most recently an ESPN.com fantasy baseball blogger, was hired as a pro scout. … Triple-A Durham pitching coach Neil Allen interviewed for the Boston job that went to Bob McClure. … RHP James Shields turned 30 on Tuesday, so if he stays with the Rays, his likely opening day outing would end their streak of starts by pitchers under 30 at 764. … Rays players won two mlb.com GIBBYs (Greatness in Baseball Yearly awards): Dan Johnson’s Game 162-tying pinch-hit homer was top "moment" (edging Derek Jeter's 3,000th hit); and Evan Longoria's Game 162-winning homer was top walkoff.

Top 10 Rays prospects

Baseball America's rankings:

1. LHP Matt Moore

2. SS Hak-Ju Lee

3. RHP Chris Archer

4. RHP Taylor Guerrieri

5. RHP Alex Colome

6. LHP Alex Torres

7. SS Tim Beckham

8. LHP Enny Romero

9. OF Drew Vettleson

10. OF Mikie Mahtook

And from last year:

1. RHP Jeremy Hellickson

2. LHP Matt Moore

3. OF Desmond Jennings

4. LHP Jake McGee

5. OF Josh Sale

6. LHP Alex Torres

7. RHP Alex Colome

8. C Justin O'Conner

9. OF Drew Vettleson

10. RHP Jake Thompson

Tampa Bay Rays see patience as a virtue in hunt for upgrades 12/24/11 [Last modified: Saturday, December 24, 2011 10:01pm]

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