Rays continue search for bullpen help

Rays continue search for bullpen help

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Acquiring help for the bullpen continued to be the Devil Rays' focus during the second day of Major League Baseball's Winter Meetings, but as yet, no deals are forthcoming.

Andrew Friedman, Tampa Bay's executive vice president of baseball operations, described Tuesday's action as the Rays being proactive and reaching out to certain teams about certain players, while other teams have been proactive in reaching out to the Rays.

"We had positive movement on multiple fronts," Friedman said. "But these talks aren't that much different than talks we had a week ago, two weeks ago. These four days kind of facilitate a better venue to sit down face-to-face and really focus on this as opposed to everything else that we do in the course of an offseason. And it certainly helps facilitate that, but there's certainly no magic to these four days in the sense of actually getting something done vs. not. But we've had very positive talks and certain things that we're somewhat optimistic about."

Discussions have not been limited to trade talks. According to Friedman, the Rays have exchanged figures with a couple of free agents, and the club is monitoring the status of several other free agents.

"These are guys we think will definitely improve our team this year and next year," Friedman said.

Strong free-agent candidates who could fit nicely into the Rays' bullpen include Octavio Dotel and Russ Springer.

Friedman believes that sealing any potential deal could be "incumbent upon us selling [the player on] the Devil Rays.

"We need to turn it into a destination spot."

The vibe about the Rays from the agents of free agents is distinctly more positive, in Friedman's opinion, which is a status the Rays are working hard to attain.

"Different things we have done have made us more attractive," Friedman said. "No state income tax doesn't hurt, either."

While no deals were struck through free agency or via trades Tuesday, no deal was made to bring into the fold Japanese infielder Akinori Iwamura, for whom the Rays bid $4.5 million to win the negotiating rights with on Nov. 15.

Friedman said he did not speak with Iwamura's agent, Alan Nero, on Tuesday, but they have agreed to talk at the end of the week in Tampa. The Rays have until Dec. 15 to finalize a contract with Iwamura. If he does not sign, the Rays do not have to pay the $4.5 million posting fee, and Iwamura would return to play in Japan.

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