LAKE BUENA VISTA — The market for first basemen grew a little thinner Wednesday when the Seattle Mariners signed Corey Hart and traded for Logan Morrison. How that impacts the Rays remains to be seen and might be seen in short time.
Andrew Friedman, the team's executive vice president of baseball operations, said his search for a first baseman could soon be coming to an end.
The David Price Sweepstakes, though, could drag on for some time. Indications are the Rays are not close to a deal involving the ace left-hander.
Price's agent, Bo McKinnis, told Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports on Wednesday morning that Price would not be interested in negotiating a long-term deal with the Mariners, believed to be the leading team to land Price. McKinnis told Rosenthal that Price would be open to such a deal with other teams. McKinnis declined further comment.
Since the Rays do not feel a dire need to move Price this offseason, Friedman can be patient until the best offer comes along.
Friedman's top priority this offseason is to find a first baseman, and he said Wednesday, the third day of the winter meetings, that he had a number of “mature conversations” with agents Tuesday night and all day Wednesday toward that end.
“I think each day that's gone on has kind of crystallized things for us a little bit more. I think that's one of the areas in the next few days something can happen,” Friedman said. “That said, it may drag on longer than that, but I think we've advanced the ball in some areas to potentially be in position to do something sooner rather than later.
“That said, it wouldn't be the first time we felt like things have gotten fairly close on deals that take longer to materialize, but there's at least been positive momentum.”
Friedman said he would be surprised if he didn't land a first baseman by the end of the month.
Friedman has gone the free-agent route to find his first basemen, something he said Tuesday works better for his low-revenue club.
Free agent James Loney, who enjoyed a breakout season with the Rays in 2012, is very much on the radar, though his reported asking price of at least $9 million a year for three years is too high. The Pittsburgh Pirates and Milwaukee Brewers also are interested .
The Rays would prefer a left-handed hitting first baseman, but Friedman said earlier in the week that the goal is to acquire a first baseman who can hit right-handers. That could expand the Rays' free-agent targets to include Kevin Youkilis, a right-handed hitter with a career .277 batting average against righties, and the switch-hitting Kendrys Morales, .278 against righties during the past two seasons.
The switch-hitting Justin Smoak, who appears to be out of a job with Seattle now that the Mariners traded for Morrison, could be on Friedman's radar. Friedman does have catcher Jose Lobaton to offer in a trade for a first baseman, and the Mariners could be in the market for another catcher.
The Rays also have been mentioned as possible trade partners with the Texas Rangers for Mitch Moreland and the New York Mets for Ike Davis, though the Mets are believed to be seeking a young pitcher in return.
Free agent Mark Reynolds could fit the Rays' profile at first base, but he bats right-handed and he has a lot of swings-and-misses to go with his power.
“Almost any move that happens in an area that we're looking at affects things, sometime positively, sometimes negatively,” Friedman said when asked about Seattle's moves. “But any and all movement has effects on us, but I think we're in good position to end up with a guy that we like a lot and will help us win games.”
The winter meetings conclude this morning with the Rule 5 draft. Friedman said he doesn't expect to take any players in the draft. ... Baseball super agent Scott Boras was at it again Wednesday, suggesting the Rays would be the perfect team to move to Montreal.