Rays, Percival close to deal

Rays, Percival close to deal

Less than a day after finalizing a blockbuster trade to fortify their rotation, the Rays took a major step toward similarly strengthening their bullpen. Troy Percival -- once thought to be retired for good -- is on the verge of becoming the newest Ray.

Percival, 38, soon will finalize a deal worth $8 million over two years to become the team's closer, according to multiple reports. The contract could escalate to $10 million based on a series of incentive clauses.

"We're just finishing up a couple things, but basically we're there," agent Paul Cohen told the St. Petersburg Times. "Troy's very excited."

Not bad for a reliever who officially was retired as recently as June.

Percival apparently ended his career early this year, after rejecting a Minor League contract offer from the Angels. But two months later he accepted a similar deal with the Cardinals, and quickly made the big league roster. There, he flourished, finishing 3-0 with a 1.80 ERA in 34 games.

The comeback was complete, after Percival spent nearly two years out of baseball. Before signing with the Cardinals, Percival hadn't pitched professionally since injuring his right forearm in July 2005. He attempted a comeback with the Tigers the next season, but he never saw the mound. Percival went as far as to sign a coaching contract with the Angels the following year.

Soon after, Percival realized his days as a reliever weren't yet over.

"Who knows what's going to happen?" Percival said shortly after joining the Cardinals. "It could be another 200 innings, it could be five innings. At this point, I don't know. I just know I feel good and enjoy going out there."

It wound up being better than anyone could have expected, and that short burst of success was enough to convince the Rays that he can still man the back end of a bullpen. Percival is 12th on the all-time saves list with 324, but he hasn't earned a single save in nearly two and a half years.

The move likely will push Al Reyes out of the closer role in Tampa, where he finished with 26 saves this past season. Percival reportedly had offers from other teams -- including a more lucrative offer from the Yankees, according to FOX Sports -- but he chose the Rays for the opportunity to close.

Hot Stove

Percival took and passed a physical on Thursday, though the two sides have yet to finalize a contract.

The signing improves a bullpen that finished last in the Major Leagues in ERA in 2007, and signifies the second major fortification of Tampa Bay's pitching staff this offseason. On Wednesday, the Rays acquired starter Matt Garza from the Twins in a six-player deal, though executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman hinted even then that his team was not done dealing.

"It's something we're always going to be looking for," Friedman said regarding pitching. "You can never have too much."

Anthony DiComo is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.