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Rays head home from meetings hoping deals are close to fruition

Winter meetings journal: Several days of talks have team officials confident they will be making additions soon.
Avisail Garcia, shown after homering in the AL wild-card game, is a candidate to rejoin the Rays. [DIRK SHADD  |  Times]
Avisail Garcia, shown after homering in the AL wild-card game, is a candidate to rejoin the Rays. [DIRK SHADD | Times]
Published Dec. 12, 2019

SAN DIEGO — Rays officials headed home Thursday from baseball’s winter meetings confident all the talking they did will soon lead to action.

Seeking to boost their offense most likely by adding another outfielder after swapping Tommy Pham for Hunter Renfroe, the Rays managed to keep most of their discussions quiet.

Several names did surface, including Avisail Garcia, who was with them in 2019, and lefty-hitting Japanese free agents Shogo Akiyama and Yoshitomo Tsutsugo.

The market for Garcia, who hit .282 with 20 homers, 72 RBIs and a .796 OPS in 125 games, has been evolving, with the Marlins supposedly no longer an option. Akiyama is more of a defensive-oriented leadoff type, Tustugo (who was posted, has to sign by Dec. 19 and is likely more expensive) a power hitter.

Related: Rob Manfred says Rays-Montreal plan still possible, not pleased with latest delay

“I feel like we made a lot of progress on a lot of things here and still have a lot of balls up in the air," Rays vice president Peter Bendix said. “The market’s been moving a lot faster as everyone kind of knows, which is kind of nice. But we’re still not playing at the very top of the market so we have to wait for kind of the trickle-down things to move.

“But I do feel like compared to the last couple of years things moved along a little more quickly here, so I’m optimistic that we won’t have to wait until the end of January or February or March before some things fall to us."

The Rays are also looking for another catcher and potentially some bullpen help.

Rule of 5

The Rays lost one player in the major-league portion of the Rule 5 draft, as right-hander Stephen Woods Jr. was taken fourth overall by the Royals. Woods, part of the return from the Giants in the December 2017 Evan Longoria trade, had a solid 2019 season at advanced Class A Charlotte in returning from shoulder surgery. The Royals paid $100,000 to take him, and either have to keep him in the majors or offer him back for $50,000.

Related: Stuart Sternberg: Rays are willing to spend more in right situation

“For the fifth time in the last six years we lost somebody in the major-league phase of the Rule 5 draft, but I think the double-edged sword to all of our depth is that we aren’t able to protect everybody," said Jeff McLerran, director of minor-league operations. “Excited for Stephen to get the opportunity with Kansas City. He put in a lot of work over the last year given the injury he had in 2018. We saw flashes of the guy that we traded for this past year. Definitely thought he has a future."

In the minor-league portion of the draft, the Rays took lefty Faustino Carrera, who was 8-7, 3.62 for a Cubs Class A team, and lost outfielder Pedro Diaz, who played at short-season Hudson Valley, to the Angels.

Happy for Albernaz

Though unhappy Craig Albernaz was leaving, the Rays were thrilled to see the career minor-league player, coach and manager get the chance to join the Giants’ big-league coaching staff.

“Couldn’t be happier for Craig Albernaz, a guy who grinded all the way through his minor-league career as a player and now as a staff member, doing things the right way all the way through. Nobody works harder," McLerran said. “We’re sad to see him go. He was a big piece of what we do on the development side, but this is an opportunity that he couldn’t turn down. And the chance for a guy who has been a career minor-leaguer to experience the charter flights and the big-league lifestyle is something that I’m super happy that he gets to do."

Albernaz was slated to be a field coordinator so the Rays will have to adjust their staff.

Miscellany

Pesky outfielder Brett Gardner is staying with the Yankees, agreeing to a one-year, $10-million deal plus a $10 million option for 2021 or a $2.5 million buyout. … Third baseman Anthony Rendon was the latest to hit the free-agent jackpot, agreeing late Wednesday to a seven-year, $245 million deal with the Angels. He had been with the Nationals. … Free agent catcher Austin Romine is reportedly headed to Detroit on a one-year, $4.1 million deal. … MLB and the union announced changes to the joint drug policy, as big-leaguers will now be tested for opioids and marijuana use will no longer get minor-leaguers suspended. (Major-leaguers are not tested for marijuana).

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