The Rays Tank: Rays get busy at Winter Meetings

USA Today Sports

The Rays are staying busy at the Winter Meetings.

Andrew Friedman and the Rays brass have had a busy couple of days in Nashville.

In between cocktails with Jason Collette, the front office found time to ink 1B James Loney on Monday, avoided arbitration with Sean Rodriguez during lunch on Tuesday, and then traded for an everyday shortstop after dinner. Not bad for the first half of the week.

Yunel Escobar may be bringing some baggage to Tropicana Field but he also brings potential 3 WAR talent and slick fielding at a premium defensive position. All for the reasonable cost of a double-A infield prospect that was blocked within the organization, INF Derek Dietrich. I have a hunch that Maddon will find a way to keep Escobar focused and if we get the rebound year we expect from him, this has all the makings of yet another Rays steal.

His affordable contract also means that even with all the options picked up he'd be making just $15-million over three years, a considerable savings compared to deals inked around baseball yesterday, most notably the 37-year-old Marco Scutaro's 3-year, $20-million dollar deal with San Francisco.

Acquiring Escobar as an everyday shortstop also comes with a hidden value of enabling Ben Zobrist to return to his versatile Super U role, playing some 2B, RF and possibly 1B. In addition, the Rays have filled two holes relatively cheap, possibly leaving them with valuable resources to acquire some pop at DH.

In other Rays news, the team added a second hitting coach by promoting Jamie Nelson from the minor leagues. He will apparently assist Derek Shelton in his day-to-day duties as well as work with catchers. Secondary hitting coaches are a trend that is catching on around the league, with roughly half the league now employing the strategy. Shelton has taken some criticism of late and if Nelson can help this team hit even a little bit better then it is an idea worth trying.

Finally, CBS Jon Heyman goes out on a real limb and suggests that the chances the Rays trade a starter is increasing rapidly, based in part on rising costs of acquiring free agent hurlers. Duh. The real nugget in this article is Heyman's notion that the Rays have given up on re-signing David Price, with Heyman saying, "Their people conceded their chances to lock up Price beyond his current contract are nil." Ruh-roh!

We know the Rays will listen on just about anybody but most suspect that Price would not be on the block until 2014 or 15. Friedman has also repeatedly stressed his unwillingness to part with pitching, claiming that if the time came that the Rays would have to find starters on the open market they would be doomed.

For now, with all due respect to Jon Heyman, I'm leaning toward Friedman keeping his word on this one.

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