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VP: Focus still firmly on Rays improving
By MARC TOPKIN
Published November 28, 2007
ST. PETERSBURG - The Rays' efforts to win approval for a new stadium they will detail today won't affect their efforts to win more games.
Executive vice president Andrew Friedman said the two missions are "independent" of each other, but also said the focus had shifted to make the team better sooner than later.
"I think we're at a point, a lot of our focus in '06 and '07 was on the future, and I think right now our M.O. is changing in that we have a lot fewer questions this offseason than we did last offseason and next offseason we expect to have even fewer," Friedman said. "So this is a good opportunity for us to start being more aggressive to focus on the now than we were able to in the previous years. It gets back to the personnel we have in upper minors and at the major-league level that we feel like it's the right time to really start moving this thing forward."
At the winter meetings next week, the Rays' primary goals are to get a shortstop to help improve the defense and at least one established late-innings reliever.
The payroll is expected to rise to the mid $30-million range and Friedman reiterated that they would have the flexibility to spend more in the right situation.
-With competition heating up for free-agent shortstop Cesar Iztruris, the Rays appear to be looking more at the trade market and are having active talks.
-C Hector Gimenez, 25, who spent seven seasons in the Houston organization, signed as a minor-league free agent. OFs Chris Richard and Jon Weber, who played last season at Triple-A Durham, were re-signed to minor-league deals.
-Though Akinori Iwamura will spend most of spring training at second base, he could end up back on third to open the season if team officials decide prospect Evan Longoria needs more time in the minors.
-OF Rocco Baldelli continues to have medical tests but the Rays are "cautiously optimistic" he can be the primary DH next season.
Times staff writer Eduardo A. Encina contributed to this report.