ST. PETERSBURG — By the time the Rays made their decisions not to tender contracts to four players late Thursday night, they had more than 40 new free agents to consider.
That process continued Friday, as the Rays sorted through the players nontendered elsewhere, determining who might fit, were likely to re-sign with their former team, were injured or would seek too much money.
"There are a number of interesting players that recently hit the market,'' Rays executive vice president Andrew Friedman said Friday night. "We have already reached out to a number of them and will factor them into our process.''
Rebuilding the bullpen is a top priority, and there were several relievers with late-game experience on the list, topped by Bobby Jenks, the former White Sox closer. Others include Jeremy Accardo (Jays), Chris Ray (Giants) and George Sherrill (Dodgers).
Names that looked most interesting among the hitters included outfielder/DH Jack Cust, let go by Oakland despite a career .378 on-base percentage; outfielder Matt Diaz, who has hit for power and average with the Braves; and outfielder Lastings Milledge, a promising prospect who has failed with several teams.
Of the four players the Rays let go, they are expected to re-sign lefty reliever J.P. Howell, who is recovering from shoulder surgery, in the next week or so, and have interest in bringing back reliever Lance Cormier and infielder/DH Willy Aybar in the right situation.
Catcher Dioner Navarro, who left the team when he wasn't included on the AL division series roster, is done as a Ray.
"Probably the right time to move on,'' Friedman said. "It was something that I think was inevitable and a lot of people anticipated. That said, Navi was a big part of our success, especially in 2008, and we wish him well.''
Yankees, of course, meet with Crawford
The Yankees don't often ignore any top-level free agents, so reports Friday that they, too, had conversations with leftfielder Carl Crawford weren't much of a surprise.
Crawford's primary suitors have appeared to be the Red Sox and Angels with the Yankees considered a possibility to get involved if they were unsuccessful in signing pitcher Cliff Lee.
But SI.com's Jon Heyman reported Friday on the possibility of what the Rays and other AL East teams would have to consider the nightmare scenario: It's "possible" the Yankees will have room to sign both Lee and Crawford such as when they signed the top free agent pitcher, CC Sabathia, and the top free agent hitter, Mark Teixeira, before the 2009 season.
Of course, it's also possible the Yankees just want to get involved to be prepared if they don't sign Lee and, in the process, perhaps drive the price up.
White Sox get Dunn, hope to keep Konerko
CHICAGO — Adam Dunn joined the White Sox for four years and $56 million. Now Chicago will try to re-sign fellow first baseman Paul Konerko.
Konerko, who turns 35 in March, hit .312 with 39 homers and 111 RBIs in 2010. If he returns, Dunn, 31, who hit .260 with 38 homers and 103 RBIs for the Nationals, likely would be a full-time DH.
Meanwhile, catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who turns 34 on Dec. 30, agreed to re-sign for two years and $8 million. He hit .270 with nine homers and 56 RBIs.
General manager Ken Williams said both deferred money so the White Sox could make a stronger offer to Konerko.
Rivera-Red Sox: The Red Sox offered Yankees closer Mariano Rivera a two-year, $30 million deal, ESPN.com reported. Rivera turned it down to return to New York for the same terms (though he hasn't officially re-signed). Had Rivera agreed, ESPN.com reported, incumbent closer Jonathan Papelbon would not have been offered a contract. In 2010, Papelbon, eligible for arbitration, had a career-high 3.90 ERA and blew a career-high eight saves.
Closer pleads: Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez avoided jail by pleading guilty to attempted assault after he was accused of attacking his girlfriend's father in August. Rodriguez, who tore a ligament in his pitching hand during the incident, was sentenced to a conditional discharge, meaning as long as he completes anger management treatment, he will stay out of jail. The sentence also covers a plea to disorderly conduct for sending 56 text messages to his girlfriend after being ordered by a judge not to contact her.
Braves: Right-handed reliever Scott Linebrink was acquired from the White Sox for a minor-leaguer.
Mariners: Left-hander Erik Bedard, limited by left shoulder injuries to 30 starts (none since July 2009) after being acquired in 2008, signed a one-year, $1 million deal with incentives of $6.35 million.
Reds: Bronson Arroyo agreed to a two-year, $23.5 million extension through 2013. The Reds previously exercised an $11.5 million option for 2011 for the Hernando High graduate, who won a career-high 17 games last season.
Rockies: Infielder Jose Lopez was acquired from the Mariners for a minor-leaguer. Lopez had career highs of 25 homers and 96 RBIs in 2009 but in 2010 fell to 10 and 58 while hitting .239.
Information from Times wires was used in this report.