Insider: Rays’ Friedman A Candidate In Houston

Major League Baseball’s hot stove will be at full burn next week during the winter meetings in Dallas. Meanwhile, here in Tampa Bay, a few embers are slowing burning on the Rays off-season fire. Here is the latest surrounding the team:

Molina Officially Signs

After a week of silence, the Rays officially announced the signing of Jose Molina. The 36-year-old gets a one-year deal worth $1.8 million ($1.5 million base salary + $300k buyout) with a club option that could make it a two-year pact for a total of $3 million. The Rays paid slightly more than the going rate for a backup catcher, but Molina figures to be at least a part-time starter if he does not grab the lion’s share of playing time outright. At just under $2 million, the team is asking for a little more than replacement level production overall which Molina should provide on defense alone.

On a conference call, Molina said he was happy to join a young team with the ability to reach the playoffs. He also said he will be an open book for the younger pitchers and catchers looking to soak up some of the veteran’s knowledge. Rays Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman said “Jose has been one of the best defensive catchers in baseball over the past decade, and his presence will bring even more stability to our defense, and he will, of course, be a great asset to our young pitchers.”

Astros Granted Permission To Speak With Friedman

Andrew Friedman has garnered more interest than most players this off-season. Friedman has been mentioned as a candidate for nearly every executive opening this off-season and has previously met with the Los Angeles Angels about their formerly open position. After new Houston Astros’ owner Jim Crane relieved general manager Ed Wade of his duties this weekend, the Houston franchise asked and received permission to interview Friedman for the vacancy. Friedman, a Houston native, is unlikely to leave Tampa Bay, having more of a “partner” role than that of a traditional GM; however, the allure of going home to rebuild his boyhood team could at least invoke some thought on his part.

Jonathan Broxton Reportedly Wants To Play Close To Home

Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweeted that a friend of free agent Jonathan Broxton said “all things being equal wants to be close to Ga home.” Sherman said the hometown Atlanta Braves were unlikely, but did name the Miami Marlins and the Rays as possible fits. ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick also mentioned Tampa Bay as a team that could be “in the mix” for the right-hander’s services. Just a few weeks ago, I speculated that Broxton could attract the Rays interest for the right price. He is expected to choose a new team before the winter meetings take place.