TAMPA - The Devil Rays soon may be adding a veteran first baseman and closer to their roster.
Talks have heated up between the Rays and St. Louis on a deal that could bring former University of Tampa all-American Tino Martinez to Tampa Bay within a few days. Rays General Manager Chuck LaMar also has begun efforts to acquire free-agent closer Tom Gordon.
The Rays and Cardinals are believed to be close to an agreement on how much of Martinez's $7.5 million contract St. Louis will pay in 2004. Sources have said that figure likely will be between $6 million and $7 million. The contract also includes an $8 million salary or $1 million buyout for 2005.
The Cardinals, who plan to move all-star Albert Pujols to first base next season, likely would receive a minor-league position player in return for Martinez, who turns 36 in December.
LaMar, returning home Thursday from the general managers meetings in Arizona, said of Martinez, ``We'd like him to be a Devil Ray'' but declined to say how quickly that can happen.
Manager Lou Piniella added, ``If it does happen, Tino will be very excited and we will be too.''
LaMar said he spoke with Gordon's agent while in Arizona and expects to talk again. The Rays have made acquiring a closer one of their top offseason priorities and Gordon leads their list.
Gordon, who was raised in Avon Park, was 7-6 with 12 saves in 17 opportunities for the Chicago White Sox largely in a setup role last season. His best season came with Boston in 1998, when he saved 46 games before being sidelined by arm problems. He appeared in 66 games last season for the White Sox.
I have enough faith in Jocketty to hope it won't go down like that. Pay 7 of the 7.5 mil? For a prospect.