Rays' doors are open to all offers

As the GM meetings open, the Rays say they have to be willing to consider offers for everyone.

By MARC TOPKIN, Times Staff Writer
Published November 7, 2007

LAKE BUENA VISTA -- The Rays didn't trade Scott Kazmir to the Mets on Tuesday. Or Delmon Young to the Giants. Or Rocco Baldelli to the Twins. Or Carl Crawford to any of a half-dozen supposedly interested teams.

But that doesn't mean they someday wouldn't.

Or at least think about it.

With offseason rumors in full swirl at the annual GM meetings, Rays executive vice president Andrew Friedman said Tuesday he has to be open to all possibilities in trying to improve a team that averaged 97 losses over its first decade and has finished last nine times out of 10.

"We're not good enough as of Nov.7, 2007, to say that anyone is untouchable," Friedman said. "Obviously, there are players that we're much less likely to talk about and it would be much harder for us to deal. That being said, we have to listen to anything and everything, and if there is a team that wants Player X and is offering, in our opinion, a good deal more than Player X, we can't be afraid to pull the trigger."

While trading Kazmir, Young or Crawford would require a blockbuster return -- which makes it easy for Friedman to say he'd listen -- Baldelli's situation is different.

The speedy centerfielder played only 35 games because of a mid-May hamstring strain, and just 263 of 647 over the past four seasons because of injuries. His status remains somewhat uncertain as the Rays await results of further medical tests to determine the cause of his persistent problems.

That makes it tough for the Rays to count on him -- if healthy, he'd at best be the primary DH with Crawford, B.J. Upton and Young entrenched in the outfield -- but also tough to trade him since his value would be low.

Friedman sounded Tuesday as if the Rays expect to have Baldelli on the field in their new uniforms, saying they have "always been confident we're going to be able to go forward with a healthy Rocco" and that doing so puts them in "a great position of depth."

"There's certainly ways to get the Big Three and Rocco in the lineup, there's ways that it opens up an area for us to talk about one of the other guys, so it gives us a lot of flexibility moving forward," Friedman said. "The most important thing right now is to find that needle in the haystack, and we're confident we're going to be able to put this stuff behind us."

Seeking a shortstop and bullpen help, the Rays had some "dialogue" with teams about potential trades -- they were seen talking with the Twins, who have surplus young pitching -- after an interesting new wrinkle to the meetings, a GMs-only session in which each detailed needs and depth.

They were not expected to meet Tuesday with Scott Boras, the agent who represents arbitration-eligible first baseman Carlos Pena; are unlikely to re-sign their only free agent, backup catcher Josh Paul, before he goes on the open market Nov. 13; and plan to decide within the next week on their 2008 options on reliever Al Reyes ($2.3-million, likely picked up) and infielder Greg Norton ($1-million, likely declined).

Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@sptimes.com.