Moves Tampa Bay Rays Must Try to Pull Off at the 2013 MLB Winter Meetings

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Moves Tampa Bay Rays Must Try to Pull Off at the 2013 MLB Winter Meetings
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The Rays need to establish the asking price for their ace at the winter meetings.

The Tampa Bay Rays have two objectives for the winter meetings. They need to set the foundation for a trade of David Price and re-sign first baseman James Loney.

The price for the Rays ace may ultimately be too steep for teams to want to trade for. As he should, Rays general manager Andrew Friedman will be looking to get as much major-league-ready talent in return for Price as he can.

Last December, the team got top prospect Wil Myers as part of the return compensation for trading James Shields to the Kansas City Royals.

A trade for Price would have to provide equal or greater value to the Shields deal in order for it to be a success.

Shields pitched 1454.2 innings in 218 games over seven years for the Rays at the time he was traded. He finished his tenure in Tampa Bay with a 3.89 ERA. He also was named to only one All-Star team.

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Price, on the other hand, has only pitched 973 innings in 152 games over six years with the Rays. He has a lower odometer and a career 3.19 ERA, Cy Young Award and three All-Star appearances, which makes it easy for Friedman to hold tight to whatever value he envisions.

The key for the winter meetings will be for the Rays to determine if there is a deal that makes sense for them that they can begin to iron out.

If the foundation for a trade is not worked out during the meetings, it could mean Price is likelier to be traded closer to July than January.

Another move that must be made is finding a first baseman.

As much as the Rays would like to be able to bring back James Loney to play first base, he will likely cost too much for their fiscal preferences. In 2013, Loney signed a one-year deal worth $2 million.

According to Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports, the free agent is seeking a three-year deal in the range of $27-30 million.

If the Rays agree that Loney is out of their budget, they need to use the meetings to kick the tires on some other options. If Price is traded, the team can either push for a first baseman as part of the package or spend more on the position with Price's salary off the books. 

The other option is to stick with the Rays' blueprint of the past few seasons and sign a veteran to a budget-friendly, one-year deal.

The Rays could look to bring back free agent Casey Kotchman. He was with the team in 2011 and had a .306/.378/.422 line in 146 games. He would certainly be budget-friendly coming off of an injury-plagued 2013 season where he only played in six games for the Marlins before being released in August.

Some other free-agent possibilities include Kevin Youkilis, Mark Reynolds and Corey Hart.

Having a revolving door at first has not been an issue for the Rays. The team has started a different first baseman every year for the last three seasons and still won over 90 games in each.

The remaining moves the Rays could attempt to make during the meetings would be to solidify depth. The recent acquisition of Heath Bell and re-signing of Juan Carlos Oviedo should resolve their late-inning bullpen needs.

 

All statistics and salary information courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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