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Rays won’t ‘lose any sleep’ over Yankees signing Gerrit Cole

Winter meetings journal: The way Rays see it, life in the AL East is always going to be tough even with a $324 million pitcher.
General manager Erik Neander talks with reporters during a briefing at the Winter Meetings in San Diego, California on December 11, 2019. [WILL VRAGOVIC  |  Tampa Bay Rays]
General manager Erik Neander talks with reporters during a briefing at the Winter Meetings in San Diego, California on December 11, 2019. [WILL VRAGOVIC | Tampa Bay Rays]
Published Dec. 12, 2019
Updated Dec. 12, 2019

SAN DIEGO — The Yankees’ signing of top free-agent starter Gerrit Cole to a record-crushing nine-year, $324 million was felt throughout the game.

But the Rays aren’t too shaken by it.

Sure, they’re now going to match up more often, up to six times a year, with Cole, who has been among the game’s best the last two years, going 35-10, 2.68. And who beat them twice in AL Division Series, allowing one run while striking out 25 in 15⅔ innings.

But facing highly paid aces with the Yankees, or other AL East rivals, is not anything new, even if this one is making $36 million a year, roughly $10,000 per pitch.

“It’s what you expect,’’ Rays GM Erik Neander said. “The names change, but the budgets, the aggressiveness, the demands and the expectations that clubs like New York and Boston and those teams have, it’s a constant. … The standards that they have and the lengths they will go to to make their team as competitive as possible, that’s just part of competing in this division.

“So really, truly there’s a reason that a deal like that happens. Gerrit deserves it and has earned it.

“But we’re not going to lose any sleep over it. If it’s not him it’s somebody else and that’s just the way it is. Really, it’s not a productive use of our time to get too stressed over it.’’

Rays ‘moving in’ on deals

The Rays came to the meetings, which end Thursday, targeting offense, and Neander said they were making progress in talks on the trade and free-agent front. “We’ll certainly hit some dead ends and things won’t go the way we want them to, but do believe we’re moving in the right direction but at the same time nothing imminent,’’ Neander said late Wednesday afternoon. “We better be closer because we have work to do and we have ways we want to improve our club. … We have a good idea of the players that might be able to fit us. I think there’s some as we’re getting into it that we thought would be attainable for us (that are) maybe less so than we thought, and other that are more practical.’’ … They met Tuesday with one option, outfielder Shogo Akiyama, a free agent from Japan. Catching and bullpen help are other needs, and there was lobby chatter about interest in ex-Yankees reliever Dellin Betances.

Safety first

As all other teams for 2020, the Rays will extend protective netting past the dugout at the Trop. It won’t go all the way to the foul pole, as seven teams are doing, with the specifics still being determined.

Rule 5 alert

More action is expected in Thursday’s Rule 5 draft of minor-leaguers given the addition of a 26th man to big-league rosters, but the Rays are not expected to make a pick. They could lose a player or two from their fertile farm system, with outfielders Moises Gomez and Dylan Cozens, and pitcher Steven Woods Jr. considered most likely.

Miscellany

Craig Albernaz, who earned raves as a Rays minor-league player, coach, manager and field coordinator, was hired to manager Gabe Kapler’s Giants staff as the bullpen coach. … Former Rays (and others) catcher Bobby Wilson, a Seminole High product, retired at age 36 and got the Double-A managing job with Texas. … Long-time White Sox broadcaster Ken “Hawk” Harrelson was voted the Hall of Fame’s Ford C. Frick Award for broadcast excellence; Rays TV man Dewayne Staats was a finalist for the fourth time. … Among many options being explored by the Red Sox, and new baseball operations boss Chaim, Bloom, is trading lefty David Price, the ex-Ray who has $96 million over three years remaining on his contract. … Another of the big free agents cashed in, with third baseman Anthony Rendon getting $245 million over seven years from the Angels. ... The Blue Jays added a much-needed starter, agreeing to a two-year, $24 million deal with Tanner Roark. … Reliever Blake Treinen, whom the A’s non-tendered rather than pay a projected $7.8 million arbitration salary, agreed to a one-year, $10 million deal with the Dodgers. … Starter Josh Lindblom got a three-year deal from the Brewers guaranteeing $9.125 million. … A study commissioned by MLB found, not surprisingly, that the regular-season home run spike was not due to baseballs being juiced but due to inconsistencies in the seams of the balls and “changes in player behavior.’’ … Commissioner Rob Manfred said planned rule changes, such as requiring pitchers to face at least three batters and to spend a minimum of 15 days on the injured list and on option to the minors, are set to be implemented. … Manfred said there was no timetable for concluding the investigation into cheating by the Astros as they had talked to 60 people and reviewed 76,000 emails.

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