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Future could turn on opportunities now
There will be a lot of talk the next couple of weeks about comings and goings.
By MARC TOPKIN
Published June 17, 2007
DENVER - There will be a lot of talk the next couple of weeks about comings and goings. Whether the Devil Rays should keep troubled rookie Elijah Dukes is going to be one increasingly popular topic, and whether James Shields or Al Reyes, or both, deserve to go to San Francisco as All-Stars will be another.
But the really interesting conversations are coming, as the Rays ponder, consider, evaluate and statistically analyze options leading up to the July 31 trading deadline.
And, of course, executive VP Andrew Friedman will be listening.
Under Friedman, and under Stuart Sternberg's ownership, the Rays take something of a nontraditional approach. Rather than classify themselves as "sellers, " as most Rays teams have been in dumping higher-priced veterans, such as Toby Hall, Aubrey Huff and Julio Lugo last year; or as "buyers, " making it known to all what they are seeking and in essence driving up the price, these Rays hope to be opportunists.
Basically, they are looking for a good deal. And, Friedman said, money is not what matters most.
"We are virtually salary independent, " he said. "We've got flexibility. We've said this all along, we don't look at it as actual dollars out the door as much as we look at value and production per dollar. And being able to control a player through the next couple seasons is something that is much more important to us than the salary figures."
With an opening-day payroll of under $24-million, the Rays should, at the least, have lots to consider.
"We're 100 percent committed to continuing to improve our team, and improve it in the near term but also maintain our focus on the long term, " Friedman said. "So in the event we can acquire a reliever or any other player that fits into what we're looking for - that we can have for this year and will help us, and also be able to help us in subsequent years - is something obviously we're going to be very attracted to, and I expect us to have a lot of dialogue."
DUKES RUMBLINGS: There is increasing sentiment, some becoming obvious, among Rays players and staff that the sooner Dukes is traded or released the better for the clubhouse atmosphere and overall team. (Like by Friday when Rocco Badelli is due back?) ... Add ESPN.com's Buster Olney to those suggesting it's time to cut ties, noting, "it's hard to imagine anybody giving the Rays anything more than a Grade C type minor-leaguer for him." ... After several reports of interest in Dukes, Nationals GM Jim Bowden told the Washington Post having "good people here with high character" is "extremely important." Oh.
RAYS RUMBLINGS: One pitch the Rays are making to sign top pick David Price sooner than later is that by pitching this summer, he will start at a higher (i.e., closer to the majors) level next spring. ... How's this for a small world? One of the guys manager Joe Maddon grew up playing youth-league ball with in Hazelton, Pa., Yotsie Novotnak, is the father of new reliever Jay Witasick's fiancee, Ashley. ... Baseball America's Jim Callis writes the Rays in "a couple of years" will have "three devastating southpaws in their rotation in Price, Scott Kazmir and Jacob McGee." ...Padres reliever Heath Bell, whom the Rays were trying hard to get as he was dealt by the Mets, says he'd still welcome a chance to be a closer in Tampa Bay. ... Based on its computerized player rating system, ESPN.com's projected All-Star roster includes Shields and Reyes. ... Since Delmon Young brought it up, Damon Hollins is hitting .261 with seven homers and 29 RBIs in 52 games for Japan's first-place Yomiuri Giants.