Rays to seek bargains in new batch

By Marc Topkin
Published December 12, 2006

ST. PETERSBURG - Soaring salaries made the initial round of free agency too expensive for the Devil Rays. Now they are curious to explore the market for a new group of players who become free agents if not offered contracts by tonight's deadline.

"Historically there have been some very productive players who have been nontendered," executive vice president Andrew Friedman said. "It will be interesting to see if the escalating price of free agency has a trickle-down effect on this group of players."

Last year, the Rays made what turned out to be a tremendous signing when they plucked Ty Wigginton off the nontender pile for $675,000.

Players reportedly under consideration to be nontendered include second baseman Marcus Giles (Braves), first baseman Ben Broussard (Mariners), ex-Rays catcher Toby Hall (Dodgers), reliever Chris Reitsma (Braves) and starters Shawn Chacon (Pirates), ex-Ray Mark Hendrickson (Dodgers), Rodrigo Lopez (Orioles) and Joel Pineiro (Mariners).

The Rays are expected to tender contracts to their three remaining arbitration-eligible players - Seth McClung, Josh Paul and Wigginton - but will make final decisions on a few others today.

Also, Friedman continued negotiations with agent Alan Nero on a deal for Japanese infielder Akinori Iwamura, who must be signed by midnight Friday, and had trade discussions with several teams as Rocco Baldelli remains a prime target. MLB.com reported the Marlins have interest in McClung and B.J. Upton.

The Rays on Thursday will formally announce plans to shift a May 15-17 series with Texas to Disney's Wide World of Sports complex.

Around the majors

ORIOLES: Free agent Jay Payton, 34, agreed to a $9.5-million, two-year contract, filling the team's need for a right-handed-hitting outfielder.

RANGERS: Centerfielder Kenny Lofton agreed on a one-year deal for about $6-million. Lofton, 39, had a .360 on-base percentage and 32 steals in 37 chances in 129 games with the Dodgers last season.

Information from Times wires was used in this report.