tampabay.com

Nontenders likely to be low-impact

After the deadline to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players arrives at midnight, the Rays will be scouring the suddenly expanded list of nontendered free agents, hoping to find the right fit for one of their holes. But their needs likely won't be filled through the nontender market.

By EDUARDO A. ENCINA
Published December 12, 2007


ST. PETERSBURG - After the deadline to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players arrives at midnight, the Rays will be scouring the suddenly expanded list of nontendered free agents, hoping to find the right fit for one of their holes. But their needs likely won't be filled through the nontender market.

In seeking a left-handed hitting outfielder, a left-handed reliever and a super-utility infielder to complete their roster, the Rays compiled a list of a handful of possible nontender candidates, none of whom are highly recognizable.

"We've gone through the projected list of nontender candidates as we see it," Rays executive vice president Andrew Friedman said. "That being said, a lot of factors are involved, and we don't know the plans of the other 29 teams. We'll look at the list and react accordingly and hopefully at least a couple names will fit us in some shape or form."

With the nontender market so unpredictable, Friedman said the deadline wouldn't have prevented the Rays from making a move, either via trade and free agency, had an opportunity presented itself.

Left-handed hitter Ben Broussard, who could play a corner outfield position and DH, is an outside possibility if Seattle nontenders him. The Rays are not interested in catcher Miguel Olivo, who is expected to be nontendered by the Marlins but at age 29 would not fit into Tampa Bay's plans.

The Rays face a decision on whether to offer a contract to right-handed reliever Grant Balfour, who is in his first year of arbitration eligibility. Balfour's role became less prominent with the signing of closer Troy Percival and the reshuffling of late-inning roles.

MINOR-LEAGUE STAFF ANNOUNCED: Among the additions to the organization's minor-league staff is former Rays third baseman Jared Sandberg, who will serve as a coach for the short-season Class A team in Hudson Valley.

Matt Quatraro, who spent the past two seasons managing Hudson Valley and was the first Rays minor-leaguer to join the organization's coaching ranks in 2004, was promoted to manage Class A Columbus. Tampa native and former Rays outfielder Ozzie Timmons, who coached at Hudson Valley last season, will join Quatraro.

The Rays also created a catching coordinator position, which will go to Jamie Nelson, who has managed the Rays' rookie league team in Princeton, W.e_STnSVa. The organization also added a coaching position at each of the bottom two levels, Princeton and Hudson Valley.

SPRING SCHEDULE RELEASED TODAY: The Rays will release their complete spring training schedule today. The home schedule is highlighted by a March 12 game against the Yankees. The Rays also will host a pair of division winners, the Phillies on March 7 and 19 and the Indians on March 10 and 20.

The Rays open their Grapefruit League schedule Feb.28 against the Reds in Sarasota and have their first home game March 1 against Toronto. The Rays conclude their 11 years training in St. Petersburg - they move their spring operations to Port Charlotte in 2009 - against the Reds on March 28. Spring ticket plans will go on sale Friday on raysbaseball.com, and individual game tickets will be available via online presale on Jan. 11 beginning at 9 a.m.