A few weeks ago, I explored the possibility of Joel Zumaya being the next bargain bullpen for the Tampa Bay Rays. On Tuesday, it was reported the Rays will be in attendance when Zumaya showcases his right arm for teams next week in Texas. In addition to Zumaya, Tampa Bay has reportedly checked in on reliever Luis Ayala and was rumored to be a finalist for Jonathan Broxton – another one of my suggested targets – before he signed with the Kansas City Royals. It is clear the bullpen remains a principal focus of the off-season even with the recent addition of Josh Lueke.
Unlike Broxton, Zumaya may not receive a guaranteed contract for the 2012 season. In fact, the Detroit Tigers – the organization where he has spent his entire career – have openly said they will not sign him to anything more than a minor league contract with an invite to spring training. Considering the limited resources of the Rays, a non-guaranteed commitment may be preferred.
Prior to the winter meetings, Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman said the team would like to add a bullpen arm or two to the group already in place. The current configuration has Joel Peralta and Kyle Farnsworth at the back end with youngsters Brandon Gomes and Jake McGee slotted somewhere in the middle. Rays’ skipper Joe Maddon says both Gomes and McGee are definitely “in the mix” going into next season. He also praised both young relievers for their impressive make up and improvements later in the season.
For the most part the Rays spent day two at the winter meetings out of the public eye. There was no update on the rumored pursuit of free agent outfielder/designated hitter Josh Willingham. On FanGraphs.com, I did some deeper analysis on why the Rays and Willingham would make a nice match.
Once again, B.J. Upton was linked to the Washington Nationals; however, the general consensus is the Nationals are not willing to meet the Rays asking price at this time.