11/12/2013 9:14 P.M. ET
Friedman gathering intel at GM Meetings
By Adam Berry / MLB.com
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Andrew Friedman classified this part of the offseason as a time for "gaining more intel on what's potentially real and what's not." That's what the Rays' executive vice president of baseball operations has been up to here at the JW Marriott during the first two days of the General Managers Meetings.
As usual, Friedman said the Rays are trying to be open-minded about their offseason plans, adding that they pride themselves on not having to make "definitive statements" so early in the offseason. If they keep their options open and plentiful, they have a better chance of finding a match one way or another.
That's part of the reason why Tampa Bay came to the GM Meetings with a shorter offseason shopping list than in years past.
"We clearly have to do something about first base," Friedman said Tuesday. "We have to figure out who's going to be our second catcher and potentially fill out the bench and [add] a reliever and possibly two."
You might notice that Friedman didn't mention a closer or a designated hitter, two potential vacancies. It's hard to imagine Luke Scott returning after a second straight disappointing year at DH, and it's possible that Fernando Rodney could receive better offers elsewhere.
So why wouldn't a new closer be atop their wish list? Because Friedman said the Rays would feel fine entering Spring Training with his in-house options, right-hander Joel Peralta and lefty Jake McGee, and they'd rather not limit their search to only those relievers with the nebulous "proven closer" tag.
"We're not looking as much at we need to get a closer as I'd really like to add another high-leverage, late-inning option. How that shakes out, we'll figure out in Spring Training," Friedman said. "It doesn't really concern me right now as much as getting another guy we have confidence in to be able to get big outs late in the game."
Tampa Bay still could wind up acquiring a new closer through free agency anyway, of course. Kyle Farnsworth, who saved 25 games in 2011, and Rodney (85 saves from 2012-13) didn't have "proven closer" track records, but they stepped in and filled the Rays' need without forcing them to overspend on someone with a gaudy career saves total.
"It's too restrictive to say we have to get this one thing," Friedman said. "If we're able to line up on a guy that we have a lot of confidence that can pitch the ninth inning, great, but we don't want to shoehorn ourselves into just focusing on that."
Friedman admitted it's difficult to say whether McGee and Peralta are ready to assume that role until they've done it, but right now, the Rays feel both pitchers are capable.
"They're both really good competitors, and that is a great starting point," Friedman said.
As for their next designated hitter, prepare to see several names roll through that position in 2014. With the way their roster is currently constructed, the Rays would utilize a DH rotation rather than one specific player. They're currently carrying four potential "starting" outfielders for three spots, so that group would include Matt Joyce, David DeJesus, Wil Myers and Desmond Jennings.
A few other notes gleaned from the GM Meetings:
• One of the biggest stories of the offseason is whether the Rays will decide to trade left-hander David Price. Friedman wouldn't refer directly to Price, but he was asked if the interest other clubs have shown in his players has been greater than he expected.
"About the same. For the most part, we've talked to every team leading into these meetings. We have a pretty good feel for what other teams are looking to do," Friedman said. "We've expressed interest in various players on other teams and vice versa, so we had a pretty good handle on things coming in."
• Friedman said Joyce is definitely still in the Rays' plans, even after they signed DeJesus -- another lefty-swinging outfielder with a relatively poor track record against left-handed pitching -- to a two-year contract with a club option for 2016.
• Friedman said the Rays have "maintained dialogue with a number" of their free agents and he expects to have more conversations with them. He added it is "too early to really handicap the chances [of them returning], so obviously they are talking to other teams and we're looking at alternate solutions, and we'll figure out if there is going to be an overlap over time."
• Tampa Bay's final bench spots will be determined in part by whether the new first baseman hits right-handed or left-handed. It's worth noting that 27-year-old Brandon Guyer, who is out of options, is a right-handed-hitting outfielder with strong Minor League numbers.