12/10/2003 5:10 PM ET
LaMar chats with fans online
GM discusses plans heading into the Winter Meetings
Moderator: Thanks for your questions. We're ready to start.
Alexia23FL: As a major Tampa Bay fan I was disheartened by the rumors of Aubrey Huff being traded. What is your take on this matter and what effect do you think it will have on the fanbase, since he is a popular player?
Chuck LaMar: There have been several teams who have asked about the availability of Aubrey Huff. We have had very little discussion concerning a trade like that. Aubrey established himself as one of the fine hitters in the league last year and it is our intention to try to sign him to a long-term contract. This organization has spent a tremendous amount of time and money developing the Huffs, Crawfords, Baldellis etc., and intends to keep them with Tampa Bay.
nichts: As you head into the Winter Meetings this weekend, can you give us a broad outline of what you hope to accomplish?
CL: This weekend's Winter Meetings are an important time in terms of developing our club. Our primary goal over the next seven to 10 days is to sign the best hitter we can to play either right field or DH. Once that is accomplished, we'll turn our concentration toward other needs.
Joe-Salerno: Chuck, please make all Devil Rays fans sleep better at night. Tell us that the Rays will have enough money to keep Huff, Baldelli, and other future stars with the Rays and away from all of the big-money teams that will try to lure them away.
CL: It is our intention to keep as many quality players as possible. We do not plan to be an organization such as Montreal who has had to trade a number of quality players away.
freebball: What's the story with Dicky Gonzalez?
CL: Dicky, who leads the Puerto Rican Winter League in a number of pitching categories, could be next year's Jeremi Gonzalez for the Devil Rays.
nichts: In your opinion, who's the best pitcher still available that the Rays have a chance of getting?
CL: Our primary focus right now it filling out our offensive team. And we hope to sign several low-salaried pitchers before Spring Training.
nickscholz: Hello, my name is Nick and I'm from Ocala, Fla. I was wondering if you are trying to sign a big-name hitter or pitcher.
CL: The three main players we are focusing on are free agent outfielders Carl Everett, Jose Cruz and Juan Gonzalez.
Base-Ball: Hey Chuck, I was just wondering why you released Mark Malaska? Thanks.
CL: We are in the process of having to clear roster spots to sign Major League players. Even though we think Mark is a Major League pitcher, we have to create roster spots.
tampasniff: Are you going to pick up free agent Chad Kreuter?
CL: We are in the process of trying to sign a backup catcher and will consider all possibilities.
WharfRat: What is the status of Josh Hamilton? Has he resolved his personal issues enough that his desire for the game is restored?
CL: We hope to have Josh active during Spring Training or sometime during the 2004 season. He still has the desire to become a quality Major League player but he has to get over some personal issues first.
nickscholz: When is Delmon Young expected to come to the Majors
CL: Delmon is a very unique young player. He went to the Arizona Fall League and hit over .400 in limited at-bats as an 18 year old. It wouldn't surprise me if in the next couple of years he was playing at the Major League level.
nichts: Have you heard back from Carl Everett or his agent?
CL: We expect to hear back from Carl and his agent tomorrow. We will either make progress or move on to another hitter.
Yrays: Could you please tell me how do you substantiate lower tier aquisitions? Will we always be afraid to get an impact player to add to our heritage ballplayers? If the product is there, they will come.
CL: This organization has never been afraid to sign impact players. However, with our payroll, we will continue to try to sign lower-tier free agents.
duerod: Are there any plans to upgrade the team through trades? I have heard about potential free agent signings, but not much about potential trades that could upgrade the infield or pitching positions.
CL: We've already made one significant trade in acquiring Tino Martinez. I would expect us to be able to make some more trades before Spring Training. However, most teams ask for our quality young players in trades and we are trying to hold on to as many of those as possible.
elgorpo: Mr. LaMar, given the disparity of payroll between teams in the AL East, and all of baseball for that matter, how do you see your team becoming a more competitive force in baseball?
CL: There are three keys to developing a championship club in Tampa Bay. One of them is, the Baldellis, Huffs, Crawfords, Waechters need more time to develop, as well as time for the B.J. Uptons and Delmon Youngs to reach this level. No. 2, our payroll must increase. And No. 3, I think MLB must go to a balanced schedule.
d-jol: Is it easier to negotiate with players now that Lou is here?
CL: Lou has had a tremendous impact on our ability to sign free agent players for Tampa Bay. Players know his teams will play hard on a nightly basis, that he is fair to everyone in the clubhouse and that he will not accept losing.
Base-Ball: Are we going to see B.J. Upton this coming season?
CL: B.J. Upton was voted the top shortstop prospect in all of minor league baseball. We expect him to start out this coming season with the Montgomery Biscuits, and it would not surprise us if he made his Major League debut this September.
Moderator: That concludes today's chat. Thanks for all the great questions and to Mr. LaMar for joining us today.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.