NASHVILLE — The winter meetings didn’t yield much good for the Rays.
Aside from re-signing reliever Chris Devenski, Rays officials wrapped up the meetings without making any deals, meaning they still have starter Tyler Glasnow and the impact of his $25 million salary as well as some others they’d like to move, and they didn’t address any of the top goals, such as acquiring young, starting pitchers.
A couple of their AL East rivals, meanwhile, were working on deals to land two of the game’s most dynamic players.
The Yankees acquired prolific hitter Juan Soto in a late Wednesday night trade with San Diego, and the Blue Jays were among the finalists to sign two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani to a record-breaking deal.
Plus, the Orioles, who won the AL East with a smaller payroll than the Rays, showed they’ll spend to defend their title, committing $13 million to bring in veteran closer Craig Kimbrel.
But that doesn’t mean the Rays were headed home disappointed. The extensive hours spent talking around the vast Opryland hotel complex can still pay off in the coming weeks, possibly even days.
“We had plenty of conversations, but there’s no deadlines, there’s nothing,” baseball operations president Erik Neander said. “These events, they do serve as a catalyst for discussion. There’s a lot of information exchanged leading up to this week. And then those discussions are going to stall out or continue to mature through this week. So that’s going on.”
Interest in Glasnow has been strong, with at least half of the teams checking in; the Cubs, Braves and Dodgers are among the notable ones, and some AL East teams also inquired.
After a run on free-agent starters in advance of the meetings, that market has slowed a bit, which seems to have had a trickle-down effect on trade talks, as Dylan Cease, Shane Bieber and Corbin Burnes also have stayed put.
The stall could be a result of the developments with Ohtani, as the big-market teams still in the running have to keep massive dollars available to close that deal; or to a lesser extent Soto in terms of trade inventory; and/or the expected acceleration in negotiations for the top free-agent starters, including Yoshinobu Yamamoto and ex-Ray Blake Snell, who agent Scott Boras was touting as the “most dominant” option available.
A significant question for the Rays could be whether to take the best deal now or wait until several of the big-name pursuits are settled and gamble that teams who missed out might get more desperate. For what it’s worth, Neander typically isn’t patient.
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The Rays have had talks involving some position players, but that market has been relatively slow.
There also has not been ideal matchups. For example, they would like to trade veterans such as outfielder Manuel Margot (who is due $10 million plus a $2 million buyout on a 2025 option) and DH Harold Ramirez (due a projected $4.4 million in arbitration), but instead have gotten inquiries about outfielder Randy Arozarena (a projected $9 million), infielder Isaac Paredes (a projected $3.2 million) and others.
The Mariners, who have been frequent trade partners with the Rays, would seem a potential to hook up again, as they need to add offense, are limited in what they can spend and have quality young pitching to deal.
Neander said they weren’t heading home disappointed, but actually somewhat encouraged that there have been more teams willing to talk trade than last year.
“We’re OK with a roster as it is. We’ll have conversations. We’ll listen. But there’s no self-inflicted pressure that because we’re at the winter meetings we must do something,” he said.
“But it has been active. The number of conversations, just comparing it to a year ago, which was very recent and fresh, it’s night and day in terms of how much discussion has been had.”
Typically, and maybe by design, the Rays do much of their business following the meetings, turning talks and concepts discussed in hotel rooms into reality that gets consummated by phone and text.
And that could well happen again.
“You’re trying to line up each other’s needs,” Neander said. “That can take time, it can be complicated. But I think just the fact that there is a lot of just discussion going on, you’d like to think that that’ll lead to something that’s mutually beneficial for a couple of clubs.”
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