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Rays, Giambi have mutual interest

Rays, Giambi have mutual interest

LAS VEGAS -- Jason Giambi dined with the Rays on Monday night, and executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said he thought "the interest is genuine on both sides."

"It was a very good meeting," Friedman said on Tuesday. "He's got a lot of characteristics of a hitter that we like. It was a very good get-to-know-you session."

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The Rays are hoping to find a piece, or a couple of pieces, to bolster their offense in the offseason. Friedman also talked on the telephone Tuesday with an unnamed player who wasn't able to make it to Las Vegas for the Winter Meetings, and the club could meet with free-agent outfielder Bobby Abreu's agent. In addition, Ken Griffey's agent said Tampa Bay is on the veteran's short list of teams he hopes to sign with.

"[Giambi's] track record speaks for itself," Friedman said. "I think, in a perfect world, we're looking for a right-handed hitter. But it speaks volumes about what we think of him as a player that we have the interest that we do."

Most speculation has Giambi headed back to the A's, the team he played for while winning the American League's Most Valuable Player Award in 2000. Friedman doesn't feel like Giambi has made a decision yet.

"I don't think that he would have wasted his time at dinner last night," Friedman said. "I can't imagine it's done or I don't think they would have wasted their time or our time. So I don't know how it's going to play out."

Friedman said Giambi is fond of the St. Petersburg area and having him show interest in the Rays "does validate a lot of what we're doing."

"He talked a lot about hearing firsthand from our players last year how great things were," Friedman said. "And he's got relationships with a few of our guys. That certainly helps."

Griffey would have attended the Winter Meetings if he didn't have scheduling conflicts with his charity golf tournament and his position on the board of directors for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, which is having its national meeting this week, said Brian Goldberg, Griffey's agent.

Goldberg said Griffey provided him with a short list of teams he would like to play for in 2009. Thus far, Goldberg has talked to nine of those teams, six in the American League and three in the National League, and he acknowledged that the Rays are one of the teams on the list.

The Rays do have interest in Griffey. Goldberg and Friedman have exchanged phone messages to see when and where they can get together, but it will not be at the Winter Meetings.

The White Sox declined a $16 million option on Griffey for 2009, which made one of baseball's all-time great sluggers a free agent.

Goldberg alluded to the fact that his client could be a good bargain due to the fact that delayed compensation is kicking in from a previous contract, so Griffey doesn't feel like he has to be as aggressive in cutting a new deal.

Griffey can play right field, designated hitter and back up in center field. And while he hit just .249 with 18 home runs and 71 RBIs with the Reds and White Sox in 2008, he played with an injury to his left knee that required postseason surgery.

Though it is the Winter Meetings and Spring Training begins in two months, Friedman sounded as though the process is in the early stages for finding what the Rays need to improve their offense.

"There are a number of other guys we have interest in and we've talked to their agents in the past," Friedman said. "And we're going to try and set up face-to-face meetings or meetings over the phone.

"I think it's pretty early in the process, but again, things could change. And I think we're in a position to react if it does. We have a pretty good sense of what we'd like to accomplish, and there's different complicating factors that could play out that would make it a little more difficult. But I don't get the sense from the guys we're talking to that anything's imminent. So we'll continue our methodical due diligence and hopefully have a better sense of what the best fit is in time."

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

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