Baldelli continues to draw interest

Baldelli draws interest, but Crawford will stay put

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Rocco Baldelli continues to be in play as the Devil Rays continued their conversations with other teams Wednesday at Major League Baseball's Winter Meetings.

According to one Major League scout, the Rays are asking for a starting pitcher and a position player for Baldelli.

"Major League players," the scout said. "Both have to be Major League players."

The scout went on to say a starter and a prospect with a "high ceiling" would probably get a deal done, but the Rays won't back down from their demands.

According to a Rays official, the team does not have set demands for Baldelli. The official would not even confirm their interest in trading the 25-year-old center fielder. Instead, he said the Rays have identified to other teams players who are available from their roster and have asked the other teams what they might give them in return for those players.

The White Sox were interested in Baldelli, according to a report in Wednesday's Chicago Tribune. In that report, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen expressed a desire to upgrade in center field while also looking to find a leadoff man. The story cited an unnamed source who said the White Sox were interested in Baldelli.

While Chicago was a club with plenty of starting pitching to dangle, including right-handers in Brandon McCarthy and Javier Vazquez, Wednesday night's trade of Freddy Garcia to Philadelphia makes a deal with Tampa Bay less likely. Vazquez began his professional career in Houston when Gerry Hunsicker, the Rays' senior vice president of baseball operations, was the Astros' general manager, so he was thought to be a possibility for Tampa Bay.

Executive vice president for baseball operations Andrew Friedman described Tuesday's action as "positive movement on multiple fronts" but characterized Wednesday's as "a less productive day."

"Less progress than [Tuesday]," he said. "But part of that is we advanced a lot of different conversations yesterday. Today things were a little stagnant. But we're getting to a point where hopefully we'll be able to improve our team."

Friedman said the Rays will not make an "emotional decision just for the sake of getting something done here."

Friedman will not discuss specific deals, but noted the Rays "reached out to a team about a player that we haven't discussed in a while" who "essentially would fit us very well."

When asked about the club's pursuit of a relief pitcher, Friedman said the team was in active dialogue with one and further along with another one.

"He's waiting on us," said Friedman, who expected to talk to the player later Wednesday night. "I don't get a sense that they're looking to finalize something tonight. Obviously, there's a number [they are looking for] -- 'Hey, we give you $15 million, it happens tonight.' But I don't get a feeling that they're looking to close something tonight. We'll wait and see."

Friedman attributed the lull in movement at these Winter Meetings to the fact not many free-agent pitchers have found new addresses yet. But once they begin to go elsewhere...

"It will have a pretty dramatic trickle-down effect on subsequent moves, because it will free teams up to trade pitching or to sign certain pitchers," Friedman said. "It will free things up across a lot of the different avenues, and I think that's a big reason for the lull right now."

Looking toward the final day of the meetings, Friedman addressed Thursday morning's Rule 5 Draft, noting the Rays don't have the roster spots to be active. However, an interesting facet of the draft concerns Josh Hamilton. The troubled outfielder and former No. 1 overall pick in the 1999 First-Year Player Draft was protected at the Triple-A level, which means another team can claim Hamilton for a price of $50,000.

Claiming Hamilton is a tough proposition, because he would have to remain on the team's Major League roster for the entire season in order for the selecting team to keep him. If not, he would be returned to the Rays, who would refund just $25,000. Hamilton carries a lot of baggage with his troubled past, and his comeback this summer got put on hold when he had arthroscopic surgery to repair torn cartilage in his left knee. But given the crazy sums of money being paid out for free agents, risking $25,000 on a player of Hamilton's athletic ability seems plausible.

"Obviously, Josh is a very talented player and something I think teams will and should discuss," Friedman said. "But I'd be surprised with the knee surgery and everything else if he did get taken."

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