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Based on Friedman….

Based on what Andrew Friedman said yesterday, the Rays aren’t quite sure which way to proceed where trades are concerned this year. Much of that state is due to Evan Longoria, whose return date from a torn left hamstring remains a mystery. Without knowing when he will be back, it’s hard for the team to determine what they might trade for to improve the offense.

Of course, if the Rays get off to a sluggish start to the second half, the Rays could quickly turn into sellers, which means B.J. Upton, Carlos Pena, Kyle Farnsworth and James Shields could be in play.

–Bill Chastain

Opening Day at Tropicana Frield

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Opening Day brought out a festive atmosphere to Tropicana Field, where the Rays opened their 2012 season Friday afternoon against the Yankees.

The pregame activities began with Jim Dundee, son of the late boxing legend Angelo Dundee, delivering the ceremonial first pitch Evan Longoria. The ball used was the one struck by Evan Longoria for his walk-off home run in the 12th inning of Game 162, on Sept. 28, 2011, sending the Rays to the postseason.

Angelo, an avid Rays fan and Clearwater, Fla., resident, died on Feb. 1 at the age of 90.

After the Yankees’ introduction along the third-base line, the Rays were introduced to raucous applause from the sellout crowd. Maddon, Carlos Pena, James Shields, Longoria, and Don Zimmer received particularly loud ovations.

Popular Tampa Bay area saxophonist B.K. Jackson performed the National Athem, which led up to a showing of a film that captured the drama from Game 161, much to the delight of the crowd.

The pre-game ceremony concluded when the Rays hoisted an American League 2011 Wild Card banner, which joined a 2010 AL East Champions banner, and 2008 banners for winning the AL East and with the American League pennant. All of the banners reside above the left-field stands.

Rays in Hunt for Beltran

Tampa Bay is in the mix to sign Carlos Beltran according to CBS Sports, which said the Cardinals, Blue Jays and Red Sox also are vying for the veteran center fielder.

Tampa Bay could use the six-time all-star at either DH or in the outfield. The two biggest questions facing the Rays are: 1) Will he be affordable? (Remember, Beltran finished off a seven-year, $119 million deal in 2011. 2) Would he be able to adjust to playing DH? (All Rays fans remember Pat Burrell’s struggles while being used at DH full-time).

According to the story, Beltran hopes to make a decision by Christmas.

– Bill Chastain

Rays Will Talk About Upton

According to a tweet by ESPN’s Buster Olney, the Rays are telling teams they will talk about dealing B.J. Upton, but they would have to be overwhelmed to move him. That sentiment sounds in line with what Andrew Friedman expressed when the Rays executive vice president of baseball operations told reporters — after being asked about Upton — that he was looking to improve the offense. His meaning was clear, he is not looking to trade major contributors to an offense that struggled to score runs in 2011.
–Bill Chastain

Rays and Molina

According to FOXSports.com, the Rays are close to signing veteran catcher Jose Molina to a one-year contract with an option for 2013.

The Rays did not exercise their option for Kelly Shoppach, which left the top contenders to fill the catching role in 2012 as John Jaso, Jose Lobaton and Robinson Chirinos.

–Bill Chastain

Rumors Continue to Rumble for Rays

According to multiple reports, the Rays continue to listen to offers for B.J. Upton. Teams said to be interested include the Cardinals, Reds, Pirates, Royals, Nationals and Braves. However, while they are listening to possible deals, they aren’t willing to just give him away, which could lead to Upton finishing the season with the team.

Meanwhile, James Shields appears to be off the market, though according to CBSSports.com, right-handers Jeff Niemann and Wade Davis are in play.

–Bill Chastain

Trading Shields Doesn’t Add Up

James Shields has been rumored to be getting traded to the Cardinals, Reds, and Rockies. The only problem is any deal that includes Shields doesn’t seem to add up given the way the Rays have conducted business in the past.
Yes, they have traded away the likes of Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett, but neither had a contract like Shields in which the club had control. His current contract that pays him $4.25 million this season, $7 million next season (with a $2 million buyout), advancing to the final year of his deal, 2014 where he will be paid $12 million with a club option to buy him out at $1 million.
Tampa Bay normally makes moves to take uncertainty out of the equation, such as signing Wade Davis, Evan Longoria — and Shields, to long-term deals early in their careers and not getting in a bidding war to re-sign Carl Crawford.
Aside from the financial part of the equation, Shields has been exemplary with his work ethic — which is important based on the number of young pitchers moving through the team’s system — and he’s a workhorse. And there are reasons the Rays always seem to manage to cobble together a decent bullpen and one of them is the fact the team’s starting pitching eats up a lot of innings. Shields is the king of inning eaters as he’s well on his way to his fifth consecutive 200-inning season.
While the Rays will listen to any team about any player, trading Shields at this point of his career would come as a big surprise.
–Bill Chastain

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