Rays alert on 'busy' first day of Winter Meetings
Deep in starting pitching, Tampa Bay listening to inquiries
DALLAS -- Andrew Friedman characterized Tampa Bay's first day at Major League Baseball's Winter Meetings as "busy" on Monday at the Hilton Anatole.
"You do all that you can to prepare leading into the Winter Meetings, and invariably things come up that are somewhat unexpected," said Friedman, the Rays' executive vice president of baseball operations. "With the amount of time leading up to these meetings, you feel like you have a good handle coming in.
"For one reason or another, things always seem to pop up. So it's just balancing how much time you spend on those things versus things that are active coming in, and all the while balancing that with the free-agent players. And so that is the challenge, and it's something that kind of vacillates by the minute."
Friedman said the mood changed throughout the day.
"There were times today where I was pretty optimistic about certain things, and then different times where I was a lot more pessimistic," Friedman said. "So I'm trying to stay neutral. Not get too high, too low. Our guys have done a tremendous job of putting us in a position to react quickly. And if something lines up, we won't hesitate to make a move."
Tampa Bay has one thing just about every team covets -- starting pitching.
On paper, the Rays are eight deep with James Shields, David Price, Jeremy Hellickson, Jeff Niemann, Wade Davis, Matt Moore, Alex Cobb and Alex Torres.
Friedman smiled and answered "yes" when asked if he had gained a pretty good sense that there are plenty of teams that need starting pitching.
"The point is, we've got really good pitching," Friedman said. "And there are a lot of teams that could use pitching. Now, some want to be more aggressive than others. Some don't really have good fits that make sense for us. So it's not about how many, it's which teams potentially line up with us."
Friedman noted that the Rays have been "fielding calls" about the availability of their pitching since October.
"We've had different teams reach out today on it," Friedman said. "It's hard to prioritize them in that we've had two months to kind of go through things. We have gotten more calls, but it's hard to handicap."
A perception about the club seemed prevalent among baseball insiders at the meetings that the Rays were fielding offers for their pitching only from suitors interested in knocking off their socks. Friedman dispelled that belief.
"It's not socks knocked off," Friedman said. "It's just something that works out to where there are a lot of scenarios and trades. We don't view it as, 'Do we win this trade?' It's purely how we re-deploy our depth to construct the most efficient 25-man roster we can.
"So, by virtue of the fact we don't have a ton of places we're looking, it limits the universe a little bit in terms of the teams that are direct fits. In an ideal world, something that kind of addresses what we're looking for in the near term. But it doesn't have to be that. And there are teams that we're talking to where it's more future value than present value, so you just have to account for that properly."
As is the case any time baseball scouts, executives and general managers get together in one place, there were plenty of rumors Monday in Dallas. Here's a sampling of what's out there:
The Royals are interest in shields Shields, but to get him, the Rays want closer Joakim Soria, top position prospect Wil Myers and shortstop/second baseman prospect Christian Colon in return.
The Rays are said to have interest in free-agent outfielder Josh Willingham, who profiles to be an American League player. He can play some outfield and serve as a DH.
B.J. Upton is available, but in order for a team to acquire the center fielder, the Rays must get wowed. That rumor jibes with Friedman's comments last week. When asked about Upton, Friedman did not address Upton, he simply stated that the team was trying to improve its offense.
The Rays are said to have interest in right-handed reliever Luis Ayala, who pitched for the Yankees in 2011. According to Friedman, the team is throwing a "wide net" looking for as many as two relievers this offseason.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.