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Rays Having Trouble Finding Trade Partners

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By SCOTT CARTER scarter@tampatrib.com


Published: Dec 30, 2005



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TAMPA - The Devil Rays possess two of baseball's elite prospects in shortstop B.J. Upton and outfielder Delmon Young, but as offseason talks head into 2006, adding more highly rated prospects is at the top of the Rays' wish list.


For that to happen, they must find willing trade partners within their payroll structure, which has been a difficult task for the small-market Rays.


Aubrey Huff, 29, the Rays' most productive hitter the past four seasons, was available for Baltimore to acquire Wednesday. However, rather than departing with high-level prospects from a healthy batch that includes pitchers Chris Britton, John Maine, Adam Loewen, Hayden Penn and third baseman Tripper Johnson, the Orioles signed free agent Jeromy Burnitz, who turns 37 in April, to a two-year, $12 million deal.


Since the season ended, the Rays have acquired third baseman Sean Burroughs and backup catcher Josh Paul via trades, and signed free-agent reliever Chad Harville in their most notable moves involving players from outside the organization. They also continue to negotiate with Japanese reliever Shinji Mori, whom they hope to sign by a Jan. 11 deadline.


Still, with so many trade rumors floating around the club - most involve shortstop Julio Lugo, outfielders Huff, who is owed $6.75 million in the final year of his contract next season, and Joey Gathright, and closer Danys Baez - the Rays have yet to make the kind of deal most expect before spring training begins.


"It doesn't make sense for us to make a trade unless we get a piece or two back to add to our collection of young talent," executive vice president Andrew Friedman said Thursday. "If we don't get that piece or two, it behooves us to keep the momentum we built in the second half with our young players and build off that."


While discussions continue with several teams, including the revamped Red Sox, who are searching for a shortstop and a center fielder, any trade the Rays make most likely will involve a prized prospect such as Red Sox third baseman Andy Marte, or young pitching prospects such as Jonathan Papelbon and Jon Lester, in return. While veteran Boston pitcher Matt Clement has been mentioned in trade rumors involving the Rays, his two-year, $19.25 million contract could be more than the Rays want to add at this point in their makeover.


A trade with the Marlins, who have shown interest in the speedy Gathright to replace Juan Pierre, most likely would take a top prospect such as pitcher Scott Olsen in return.





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