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No big deal for Rays at winter meetings, but it’s still coming

LAKE BUENA VISTA — Here’s the one thing we definitely know:

Rays officials headed home from the winter meetings and back across I-4 Thursday without making deals to trade any of their bigger-name, higher-paid players. Not closer Alex Colome, not third baseman Evan Longoria, not starters Chris Archer or Jake Odorizzi, not any of them, even though some of their talks had become "advanced" the night before.

"I think they’re still in that same stage right now," senior vice president Chaim Bloom said Thursday morning. "We have had a lot of detailed conversations with a number of different clubs. … We’re going to see in the near future if that leads to us consummating a deal."

Here’s one thing we think we know:

The Cardinals are a very good match for the Rays in terms of needs and potential return given a stash of young talent and prospects, and they have shown they are motivated to make moves, trying for Giancarlo Stanton, then landing Marcell Ozuna.

What started as focus on Colome seems to have expanded to include Longoria or one of the starters. Or — in what would be a mind-boggling return — potentially one-stop shopping to fill all three holes.

But until the Rays are convinced it’s their best move, it behooves them to keep talking to other teams and seeing what more they might be able to get.

"One of the things about this week, and I think it’s always this way to some degree but this year more so, it’s a fortunate position to be in — we have a number of players that teams like," Bloom said. "And that expands the amount of possibilities that pop up. So there’s not necessarily one specific thing that we’re zeroed in on. There’s a number of different possibilities that we’re trying to weigh.’’

Here’s another thing we think we know:

The Cardinals can play coy, too.

As top executive John Mozeliak led the Cardinals staff home from Disney, he said they needed to "reassess" after adding Ozuna and reliever Luke Gregerson, and decide what was next. "We’re certainly excited about the club that we have,’’ he said. "There are still some things we still might do. And I think we’ll take next week and see where that may lead us. I definitely think that January is plenty of opportunity to do other things.’’

Here’s another thing we think we know:

The longer teams that seem to match up well wait, the more chance there are for their eyes to wander.

For example, the Orioles’ deciding to explore the trade market for star free-agent-to-be Manny Machado, who obviously would be an upgraded option to Longoria but also at a different price point. Depending whom you believe, the Cardinals are described as being very interested and fairly aggressive. They also are said to have checked in on free agent closer Wade Davis.

Similarly, the Rays have gotten plenty of interest in Colome and Archer. The market for Longoria is somewhat limited — though the Angels are an option — and they might do better pairing him with one of the pitchers.

And here’s one last thing we think we know:

Whether with the Cardinals or with someone else, whether today, this weekend, on Christmas Eve or by Valentine’s Day, the Rays have to make some big deals to cut payroll. Colome remains likely the first to go. Longoria, even with all he has meant to the franchise, is very much in play, and executives around the industry know it. And one of the starters will be dealt.

When? To whom? For what?

Those are things we don’t know.

Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected] Follow @TBTimes_Rays.

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