May 1, 2012; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman talks to the media after signing designator hitter Hideki Matsui (not pictured) to a minor league contract at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Rays Notes: Thoughts on The Winter Meetings And What Could Be Next

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The Rays had a quiet, productive Winter Meetings. They filled two big needs by signing James Loney and trading for Yunel Escobar. But much more could be coming.

“At the very least we have more clarity,” executive vice president Andrew Friedman said Thursday afternoon. “I wouldn’t say anything is imminent.”

Nothing is sure to happen. But the Rays know that things very well could be and it might be only a matter of time. The Rays are one of three, four, or even five teams working on a ground-shaking deal that could send multiple superstar players to new locations for next season.

This isn’t just a crazy idea that was tossed out one time. The Rays and all the teams involved are working hard to make this trade a reality.  Jayson Stark of ESPN got the details straight from Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers.

Asked Thursday morning if he could give a sense of how hard his team worked on a mega-deal that may or may not happen, a bleary-eyed Towers replied: “I can’t speak for the other 29 clubs. But I can speak for about four or five, that I spent more time with than my people. I feel like I KNOW them better than my people. So we went from 8 o’clock in the morning to 3 in the morning (every day). Actually, I was with three clubs last night until 6:30 in the morning.”

What’s holding up the trade if the teams involved are doing everything they can to make it happen? Buster Olney mentions the Mariners as impeding the progress of the trade and Stark and Marc Topkin mention that the trade will have to wait until after Zack Greinke signs in order to figure out who needs a pitcher like James Shields. If the Rangers were to sign Greinke, a possibility that seems to be becoming more and more likely to happen, would they want Justin Upton from the Diamondbacks in the deal? If they re-sign Josh Hamilton, will they want James Shields, who the Diamondbacks are trying to get right now? What if the Royals or Dodgers push the Rays harder for Shields? There is a multiplicity of variables to be played with here and the chances of this deal happening are still very much up in the air. But the talks that started in earnest at the Winter Meetings are far from over and it will be waiting game to see if all the talks and all the effort results in a trade that changes the shits the balance of Major League Baseball for years to come.

On a semi-related note, the agent for Rays right-hander Wade Davis, B.B. Abbott, gave a very interesting quote to Topkin in today’s Tampa Bay Times.

“Wade’s desire is to stay in Tampa and be in the starting rotation,” agent B.B. Abbott said. “That being said, he actually learned from being in the bullpen last year, and he believes it will make him a better pitcher in the future. Whatever happens, Wade will be the consummate professional and work hard in whatever role he has with the club, as he always has.”

The first line has to jump out at you- how does Davis expect to make the Rays’ rotation next season?- but the rest of the quote makes it clear that Davis is ready to return to the bullpen and pitch his best if that’s the role the Rays place him into for next season. Is there any chance that Davis could be in the Rays’ rotation next year? The Rays’ current 5-man rotation is David Price, James Shields, Jeremy Hellickson, Matt Moore, and I guess Jeff Niemann with Alex Cobb and Chris Archer also very much in the mix for spots. As Topkin also notes, the Rays would love to see Niemann pitch well in spring training and trade him then, and that would make the Rays’ rotation picture a little bit clearer, but even then you have seven starters for five spots counting Davis. If Shields is traded, you still have six starters for five slots, but Davis would likely get the nod over Archer with Archer continuing to work on his control and command at Triple-A or maybe even replacing Davis in the bullpen. Davis has to be a player having trouble ignoring what is happening with the rest of the Rays’ rotation as he attempts to get a handle on whether he’ll be starting or relieving next season. And then there is, of course, the matter that Davis himself could be moved. Shields is the Rays player you’ll hear about most in rumors in the coming weeks with Jeremy Hellickson following not too far behind him, but it will be interesting to see what happens to Davis as well.

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Tags: Andrew Friedman Arizona Diamondbacks James Shields Texas Rangers Wade Davis

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