The club is expected to announce today a two-year contract extension for its slugging first baseman.
The Devil Rays insist they have a plan for the future and apparently have decided to make first baseman Fred McGriff a big part of that.
The Rays plan a "major announcement" this afternoon, when they are expected to say McGriff has agreed to a two-year contract extension. McGriff, who could have become a free agent after the season, is likely to receive about $6-million a season, and the deal is expected to include a team option for 2002.
General manager Chuck LaMar, with the Hudson Valley (N.Y.) rookie league team Thursday, declined comment on the subject of the news conference, scheduled for 3:30 p.m. at Tropicana Field. Managing general partner Vince Naimoli said, "We wouldn't call a press conference without good news."
McGriff, 35, was coy before and after Thursday's game. He confirmed that the Rays have been in talks with his agent, Jim Krivacs, but said no deal was final "until I say yes or no." He said he had not spoken with Krivacs as of 11 p.m. Thursday and probably wouldn't until today.
"I haven't made any calls or anything," McGriff said. "So we shall see. Stay tuned."
Later he said, "I would tell you guys if I really knew."
The Tampa native has had a strong second season with the Rays, hitting .314 with 29 home runs and 90 RBI. Last season, he hit .284 with a career-low 19 homers and 81 RBI.
Asked about the possibility of having McGriff back, manager Larry Rothschild said there are numerous benefits. "He's had as good a year as you can have, so you have offense. You have a professional hitter. And you have a guy who knows how to win."
McGriff never had finished a season with a losing team before last season, and he has always said he values the chance to compete for a championship. Those comments created speculation that he would leave the Rays as a free agent, but he says Rays officials have told him they intend to make the team a contender.
"They say we're trying to win, and if they're serious in that sense, we're not that far away from being a pretty decent team," McGriff said.
LaMar said last week he hoped to retain a number of the team's key veterans. With the McGriff deal due today and Dave Martinez's $2-million option triggered, the Rays are likely to next turn their attention to DH Jose Canseco, catcher John Flaherty and third baseman Wade Boggs. Flaherty can be a free agent; the Rays hold options on Canseco and Boggs, as well as outfielder/first baseman Paul Sorrento.
McGriff is completing a four-year, $20-million contract he signed with Atlanta. The Rays acquired him in a November 1997 expansion draft trade from the Braves for what turned out to be $20,000.
He has 387 career homers, and with one more will join Canseco as the only players to hit 30 in a season for four different teams.