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Wild spending reinforces Rays' vision

The huge contracts being given to free agents have made life tougher for teams trying to sign top-notch veterans.

But not the Devil Rays.

Because they plan only to dabble on the edges of the market, executive vice president Andrew Friedman said they are "a little more insulated" from the effects of the huge deals.

And they are resolute in their efforts to improve by building rather than buying.

"For us, it kind of confirms our philosophy and our thought process of developing from within and using the free-agent market to supplement," Friedman said. "We're not going to be able to build through free agency. It's very evident. Our resources are more limited than other teams. That's a fact of life. Our margin for error is smaller. That being said, payrolls don't decide the standings.

"We do feel as our young players continue to mature, as we continue to augment our system, as we continue to supplement with free agents that we're going to put ourselves in position to be playing competitive games late in the season."

LOBBY CHATTER: Alan Nero, the agent for Japanese infielder Akinori Iwamura, met with Rays officials Sunday. Talks will continue. ... The first signing of the meetings wasn't exactly a blockbuster: ex-Ray Tanyon Sturtze with the Braves for $750,000 plus incentives. Sturtze, who spent the past three years with the Yankees, is coming off rotator cuff surgery. ... Former Rays GM Chuck LaMar was on the scene in his new role as special assistant to Nationals GM Jim Bowden. ... The Mariners are interested in veteran outfielder Luis Gonzalez, a Tampa native. ... Though the Mets are considered front-runners for free-agent left-hander Barry Zito, GM Omar Minaya told reporters it was "more likely" they would trade for a starter than sign one.

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