LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — All around him, the wheels of change spin.
Robinson Cano to the Seattle Mariners. Curtis Granderson to the New York Mets. Mark Trumbo to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Brett Anderson to the Colorado Rockies.
David Price to … where? The Tampa Bay Rays’ new (or returning) first baseman will be … who?
Know this: Andrew Friedman, the Rays’ executive vice president of baseball operations, won’t be rushed into anything.
“Our long-standing goal as we head into any offseason is to try to thread a very narrow middle, which is to be as good as we can be in the upcoming season and continue to keep one eye on the future in terms of being able to sustain our success as long as we can,” he said. “So some guys make that much more difficult to compete in the upcoming year. Some guys fit in much better in how you sustain success. Every guy in our organization has a little different fit in terms of how they help us in the short-term and how they help us in the long-term.”
Friedman spoke from his suite at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort, where baseball’s stove was turned up a few degrees Tuesday. A three-team deal between the Diamondbacks, Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Angels highlighted the events, but from Friedman’s view high above the lobby, he has stuck to his strategy.
Survey the landscape. Scan the outcomes. Decide whether to act.
“I don’t comment on any specific player,” he said, repeating the familiar statement, when asked about pressure to trade Price.
Baseball’s winter meetings are calculus, chemistry and mental PE all wrapped into four wild days. Faces throughout the sport rekindle old acquaintances, shake some hands, make a few calls and dream about the future.
But dreams alone are like unused candles: They must be lit to burn. The Rays are still studying what’s best for them.
It’s little surprise their process is deliberate.
The largest nugget from the latest debriefing: The Rays gained more clarity in their search for a first baseman, their most pressing need. But Friedman said no addition is imminent.
When asked whether Tampa Bay will look to free agency (perhaps James Loney) or a trade (Jose Lobaton and Matt Joyce are possible chips), Friedman fell short of clearing fog in that area.
“I don’t have any great sense of that yet,” he said.
Elsewhere, though, others had a clearer sense of the future. Part of Tuesday felt like an early Christmas, with teams and players taking stock of their new toys.
Seattle Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon: “Well, obviously we’ve had a few things going on the last two or three weeks. It was really good.”
Granderson: “A lot of the people I’ve met in New York have always said true New Yorkers are Mets fans. So I’m excited to get a chance to see them all out there.”
Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers: “I think we’re all pretty excited about what transpired in the last half hour. We all addressed some of our biggest needs.”
In time, the Rays will offer a similar analysis. In time, their offseason jigsaw puzzle will be solved. In time, their two largest questions will be answered: What will become of Price, and who will be their first baseman?
The wheels of change spin inside and outside these walls, sometimes making December feel like a free-for-all for the most loose and aggressive.
But there’s wisdom in calculation. There’s no need to jump into the action too soon.
“The intellectual process that we have to go through on an annual basis to be good, to me, is very exciting,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said Monday. “To not just have an open locker full of money to buy exactly what you need is OK. … Necessity being the mother of invention, you’ve got to try to figure out these other avenues to get the same thing done. I think there is a little bit of purity involved in that.”
The Rays face the challenge again, no doubt.
Despite the blur of activity around them, there’s no pressure to join the party.