tampabay.com

Quality, not salary, focus in trade talks

The Rays hope to be opportunistic and won't shy away from pricier players.

By MARC TOPKIN
Published July 24, 2007


BALTIMORE - The Devil Rays have enough problems, evidenced by their embarrassing weekend in New York.

And during the next week, they may have a few more, weighing difficult decisions about whether to trade key players and whether to commit their limited resources to acquire others who might help.

Making it different from past July 31 deadlines, executive vice president Andrew Friedman says they don't have to trade anyone to dump salary or salvage pending free agency. Principal owner Stuart Sternberg says they could add a player with a significant salary.

And both insist the buzz word is "opportunistic."

Making it interesting is that they appear to be considering options on both extremes and many in the middle.

"We're having a lot of conversations that are somewhat contradictory," Friedman said. "It's all about analyzing your own 40-man roster and not viewing each trade in a vacuum but how it affects '07 and future years and feeling comfortable with your depth and quality."

The Rays have a list of targeted players, primarily pitchers, at different levels of salary and experience though no free-agents-to-be. Some, such as Yankees reliever Scott Proctor, would fill obvious holes. Others could add to their depth and allow them to deal one of their own core players. And others could be used as bait for bigger deals.

"We're trying to be creative to figure out a way to acquire as many of these guys as we can," Friedman said.

Sternberg didn't say money is no object but claimed it isn't a major one and said a benefit of the team's reduced opening day payroll, a major-league low $24-million, is the ability to add an expensive piece.

"We have the flexibility to do it. We knew coming into this year we had some more flexibility, and one of the reasons we didn't stretch out and do it for something we didn't think was going to be of any value to us was to remain open for something like this," Sternberg said.

But, he said, "I don't anticipate it, because there are a lot of teams that have payroll flexibility, who are in the (playoff) hunt who are looking to spend the money."

The Rays, like others, have found the market slow as many teams are putting high prices on young major-leaguers and top prospects (and even the compensatory draft picks they get from losing free agents). But that could change as the deadline nears. And there's always the possibility of a megadeal, involving a star such as Carl Crawford, being proposed.

"We have a lot of talented players that could potentially fit other teams well," Friedman said. "If we can accomplish something that in the context of our team feels like it improves us and allows us to trade a bit from depth to address areas of weakness, we're going to be aggressive to do that."

Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@sptimes.com View his blog at blogs.tampabay.com/rays.

Trading options

Three players the Rays likely will spend quality time talking about this week:

1 B Carlos Pena

Why you trade him: He's having a career year, and a basic stock market theory is to sell high. There's no track record to suggest, much less guarantee, he'll be this good again.

Why you don't trade him: He's only 29, and a career year could be start of something. ... Creates another hole because there isn't a suitable replacement in the organization. ... Under team control, though arbitration eligible, for two more years.

  RHP Al Reyes

Why you trade him: As well as he has done, he's 37, he has had two elbow surgeries and recently a mild shoulder problem, and time could catch up with him quickly. ... Not part of the future, so dealing him - in theory - allows for development of a future closer. ... Given scarcity of relief help on market could bring valuable return.

Why you don't trade him: There are 64 games left, and you've seen the rest of the bullpen. ... Fans would consider it a sign of "giving up" on '07. ... Has a reasonable ($1-million plus incentives) option for 2008.

 I NF Ty Wigginton

Why you trade him: Could be a candidate to be nontendered with arbitration pushing his '08 salary above $4-million. ... There are better options at his best positions (3B Akinori Iwamura, 1B Carlos Pena). ... Several teams (Twins, Yankees, others) are interested, so price could rise.

Why you don't trade him: Versatility and experience are valuable. ... $4-million to $5-million not unreasonable for 25 HR/100 RBI potential.

Others they could get calls on: INF Jorge Cantu, OF Elijah Dukes, RHP Edwin Jackson, INF Greg Norton, C Josh Paul, RHP Chad Orvella, RHP Seth McClung