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Rays have competition for catcher Welington Castillo

FILE - In this Sept. 23, 2016, file photo, Arizona Diamondbacks catcher Welington Castillo makes a catch on a bunt by a Baltimore Oriole during a baseball game in Baltimore. Castillo was among 35 players who became free agents when their teams declined to offer 2017 contracts on Friday, Dec. 2. (AP Photo/Nick Wass, File) NY191
Published Dec. 6, 2016

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The Rays' path to signing C Welington Castillo won't be simple.

Or cheap.

There has been enough interest from other teams that Castillo, unexpectedly made a free agent last week after being nontendered by Arizona, is now expected to get a multiyear deal.

While that won't necessarily stop the Rays' pursuit, the overall financial commitment, as tends to be the case in free agent bidding, might. Castillo, 29, was projected to make $5.9 million on a one-year deal, so a multiyear pact could easily approach $15 million. The Braves and Orioles are among other teams reportedly interested, and Castillo's agents plan to spend the next two days sorting through offers.

Overall, Rays executives said their first full day at the winter meetings was a busy one, focusing primarily on trades. There have been inquiries on several starters, topped by RHP Chris Archer, as well as CF Kevin Kiermaier (Nationals) among other players.

"We've had a lot of good conversation both internally to discuss some of the different things that might be out there, and also externally with other clubs," senior VP Chaim Bloom said.

The Rays are looking for relievers, a catcher and an outfielder/DH and are expected to trade one of their starters. The Astros, Braves and Cubs have been most linked to Archer; the Pirates have interest in RHP Jake Odorizzi.

CHANGEUP: Heading into his final season before free agency, RHP Alex Cobb, 29, has changed agents, dropping New York-based ACES, led by the Levinson brothers, to signing on with the Beverly Hills Sports Council.

"I really don't like the business side of baseball, but I thought this would be the best fit for my family and I on and off the field," Cobb said via text, thanking ACES for its work.

COMMISH CORNER: Commissioner Rob Manfred said a new and better-located stadium is key for the Rays, and if not, there would be a "point of desperation" where the potential for relocation would have to be raised.

"All professional sports have had their challenges in Florida. Having said that, there is a good TV market in Tampa," Manfred said in a q-and-a at George Washington University. "I think getting, not only a new facility, but a facility that is more appropriately located within the Tampa-St. Pete market would be good.

"Ultimately, there has to be an end game. If in fact, there's not a site or there's not a financial arrangement that's viable and we become convinced of that, our rules allow for the possibility of relocation.''

WORLD VIEW: Puerto Rico team manager Edwin Rodriguez said he wants to have Rays LHP Xavier Cedeno in his bullpen for the March World Baseball Classic and Cedeno wants to participate, but the Rays will have a say since Cedeno was sidelined all of September with a stiff neck. They have yet to discuss it. … Dominican Republic team GM Moises Alou said he is planning to have Rays RH closer Alex Colome on his team, and Colome may start pitching soon in winter ball to prepare.

AROUND THE Lobby: Momentum was building Monday for the Nationals to complete a deal to get White Sox ace LHP Chris Sale. … The Giants jumped first on the closer market, signing RHP Mark Melancon for $62 million over four years. … One-time Rays RHP Joaquin Benoit signed a one-year, $7.5 million deal with the Phillies.

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