Rays' plans can move forward with Lester making decision

Silverman: 'Domino effect' will come into play with left-hander going to Cubs

Rays' plans can move forward with Lester making decision

SAN DIEGO -- While the Rays don't fish in the financial pond where Jon Lester swims, they are finding there's a strong connection to the free-agent lefty signing and their ability to do business at the Winter Meetings.

"There's a few things that need to happen for everything to break free," said president of baseball operations Matt Silverman prior to Lester agreeing to a six-year, $155 million deal with the Cubs. "Everything's at a standstill right now waiting for [Lester to sign].

"Because even clubs who aren't after Lester, there are five teams that are in on Lester, let's say. Those teams are waiting to spend money. And if they don't spend money on Lester, they might spend money elsewhere. There's a real big domino effect."

Waiting for the Lester domino to fall, the Rays experienced "the same story" on the second day of the Winter Meetings that they experienced on the first day.

Winter Meetings action

Day 4: Dec. 11 Transaction Official?
OF Matt Kemp
C Tim Federowicz
Traded to Padres No
C Yasmani Grandal
RHP Joe Wieland
RHP Zach Eflin
Traded to Dodgers No
OF Yoenis Cespedes
RHP Alex Wilson
Traded to Tigers Yes
RHP Rick Porcello Traded to Red Sox Yes
RHP Ervin Santana Four-year deal with Twins No
LHP Mat Latos Traded to Marlins No
RHP Anthony DeSclafani
C Chad Wallach
Traded to Reds No
RHP Justin Masterson One-year deal with Red Sox No
RHP Alfredo Simon Traded to Tigers Yes
RHP Jonathon Crawford
IF Eugenio Suarez
Traded to Reds Yes
LHP Ross Detwiler Traded to Rangers No
OF John Mayberry Jr. One-year deal with Mets No
RHP Andre Rienzo Traded to Marlins Yes
LHP Dan Jennings Traded to White Sox Yes

"Many different conversations with a wider range of teams," Silverman said. "Feels like everyone has settled in. And we all have clear directions on potential overlaps, so the conversations are a little more pointed. And the pace is picking up. But as usual it's tough to predict when it might happen if at all."

Silverman said "about half" of the teams have called the Rays about players.

"There are inbound calls and outbound calls," Silverman said. "We have players that we've identified as good fits for us. And so in some cases we're the protagonist. In other cases teams are looking at our players and we're seeking to line up on deals that work out on both sides."

With the Rays hoping to bolster their offense, Ryan Howard's situation is interesting. The Phillies are on the hook for $60 million over the next three years for their first baseman and it's no secret they would like to move him. So the idea is out there that Howard would be one guy who might be available to the Rays if the Phillies were willing to eat enough of his contract.

Silverman does not address specific players, but when asked about the prospect of the Rays acquiring a DH, he managed a chuckle: "Given how successful we've been in selecting DH's in the past, it's somewhat of a dangerous proposition."

Pat Burrell and Luke Scott both signed with the Rays to be DHs and neither performed up to expectations.

Last season, the club did not have a true DH, prompting Silverman to be asked if they planned on doing the same in 2015.

"Given our roster and especially its versatility, it lends itself to using every spot for players who can also play in the field," Silverman said. "It doesn't mean we won't go after a pure DH. But I think our roster functions better when we're using that DH spot for a variety of players, given the way we like to match up against pitchers."

Silverman did address the concept of trading for players with bad contracts.

"Money is often a variable in the conversations we're having," Silverman said. "In a strange way, bad contracts can turn into assets because they provide the opportunity for teams to eat money and in a way finance the acquisition of a player.

"You buy down an inflated contract by a large enough amount it might help you access a player on the other side. Given our financial constraints and the absence of those large long-term contracts, we're not on the aggressor side of those. But a number of teams are looking to move players who have large contracts and money becomes a variable in those discussions."

Silverman has said the Rays are interested in acquiring catching help and they're also entertaining offers for outfielders from their surplus at the position.

As for the kind of catcher the Rays hope to find, Silverman said the player did not necessarily have to be a defensive specialist.

"We look at total catcher value to the extent that we find an offensive-minded catcher, we would overlook potential catching deficiencies," Silverman said. "And to the extent that there's a defensive specialist, we might have to take on some offensive shortcomings. It's about the total package for us and how that catcher fits in for our existing catchers, not just at the Major League level, but also in the Minor Leagues."

In the outfield, the Rays have Brandon Guyer, Kevin Kiermaier, Desmond Jennings, Matt Joyce, David DeJesus, and Wil Myers. Based on Silverman's comments Tuesday, Myers and Jennings seem to be good bets to remain with the club.

When asked about Jennings, Silverman replied: "Health-wise he's great. I spoke to him last week. He has immense talent and we've seen more than just flashes of it, but we haven't seen it on display for an entire year. He has the work ethic. He has the desire. And it's just a matter of him putting it all together, even though some of the stats aren't that sexy. He's an incredibly valuable player all around. There's a reason why he's a mainstay in our lineup and a big part of our plans."

And Myers?

"We don't have any questions about Wil," Silverman said. "The guy we saw last year was injured and didn't have a chance to demonstrate what he has. We look at him as a Rookie of the Year who really missed most of the season and expect him to be back in that form as a formidable bat in the middle of the lineup, who plays a pretty good outfield."

Maddon on Rays

During his manager session Tuesday, former Tampa Bay skipper Joe Maddon, now at the helm of the Cubs, was asked what made his relationship with the Rays that worked so well.

"First of all, if you want to talk about that, I've talked about it briefly about -- it was baseball Camelot for about 10 years," Maddon said. "It started out with my interview with Andrew [Friedman] and Matthew [Silverman] in a hotel in Houston in 2005. The moment I interviewed with these two guys I knew I wanted to work there. And from there it was a real strong philosophical connection, in regards to how we should do this.

"Then, of course, I got to meet everybody else in the ownership, and Stu [Sternberg] and all the other owners, and felt easily connected with all these people. Almost like fraternity brothers, that's exactly the feeling I got when I met these guys. We were definitely philosophically aligned, and socially, emotionally, there's a lot of connections there. So it was kind of easy to morph into what you eventually saw over the last nine years, tremendous group of people."

Girardi on Cash

Yankees skipper Joe Girardi was asked about Kevin Cash taking over as manager of the Rays.

"I think he'll do a good job," Maddon said. "Got a chance to know Kevin from just different ways. And I think that he's always been a player that paid attention to detail. I think he understood what it took to win. I think he relates well to players. So I think he'll do a good job."

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.