LAKE BUENA VISTA — The winter meetings ended Thursday with the Tampa Bay Rays closer to landing a first baseman and still sifting through their options with pitcher David Price.
Executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said Thursday it was a productive week of talks with some teams and agents.
“I think some have advanced,” Friedman said. “Others look less likely, but all the information that we’ve gathered I think is going to be very helpful for us trying to fulfill our remaining goals.”
Chief among those goals being first base. Friedman indicated Wednesday he was close to landing his first baseman for 2014.
“I think in the next week I feel very confident we’ll be able to figure something out,” he said Thursday. “I think the conversations have kind of reached the point where I don’t see them dragging on much longer than that time period, but it’s tough to say with an extremely high level of conviction, but it’d be surprising if it went past five or six days.”
The Rays left the winter meetings last year in Nashville, Tenn., with the framework for the James Shields-Wil Myers trade in place. It was completed three days later.
It is not known how close the Rays are in talks with other teams for Price. Rumors of a Price trade to Seattle, Pittsburgh, Arizona or the Los Angeles Dodgers slowed during the course of the meetings.
Rays manager Joe Maddon said Wednesday he didn’t believe Price would be traded this offseason.
“Like last year with Shields, I really didn’t think Shields was going anywhere,” Maddon said. “I really did not, so I don’t know. It always comes down to, when you hear all this stuff going on, it takes two to dance and you don’t know how serious the other sides are, and if it’s not going to match up, then it’s ridiculous, you don’t do it.
“We know why the potential is out there to do it, and of course you got to get that great return if you’re going to do it right now, but if you ask me, I feel the same way I felt last year with Shields. I really didn’t think (he would be traded), and then it was Wil Myers looming and all of a sudden you can have Wil Myers, and that kind of made you do it.”
When asked if he was comfortable with the team at this point of the offseason, Friedman said, “It’s hard to arbitrarily set a checkpoint in the middle of December, because our mindset is to get to spring training with the most talented, deepest roster we can. If I have to step back from it, as we talk about it, we feel good about where we are on the run-prevention side. Obviously we need to address first base, but having (David) DeJesus and Wil all year will help. If we can continue to add pieces that will help, we feel like we’re in a really good position.”
With or without Price, with or without first baseman James Loney, Friedman said the goal for 2014 will remain the same as it was the past six seasons.
“It’s too lofty to sit here in December and say we expect to win the American League East. We’ll talk about that in spring training and see where we are,” he said. “We feel like we’re in good position to play competitive games in September, and then once you kind of get to a point where you feel comfortable there, it’s about continuing to incrementally get better and put ourselves in as good of a position as we can.”
The Rays did not select or lose any players in the major league phase of Thursday’s Rule 5 draft. They did take right-hander Enderson Franco, who pitched last season for rookie-league Greenville in the Houston organization, in the minor league phase. Franco, who can touch 94 mph with his fastball, is 7-12 in four seasons. He was 2-5 with a 5.05 ERA in 12 starts last summer. “He’s 21. Sometimes the tools come to play a little bit later in one’s career, and that’s what we’re hoping for,” Rays farm director Mitch Lukevics said. The White Sox selected C Omar Narvaez, who played last season at Hudson Valley. C Craig Albernaz, who has been in the Rays organization since 2006, signed a minor-league deal with Detroit.