The Rays are in “advanced talks” with free agent righty Tommy Hunter, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports. But Topkin cautions that Hunter is still also holding chats with other teams, possibly in search of a multi-year guarantee, suggesting that a signing with Tampa Bay is not imminent. And ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick notes that Hunter is still rehabbing after needing core muscle surgery this winter (Twitter links). The club is working on other possibilities as it looks to beef up a pen that has lost some options to trade. Ryan Webb is also under consideration, per the report, and the Rays have looked elsewhere as well — both on the free agent and trade markets.
Here’s more from the AL East:
- Orioles executive VP of baseball operations Dan Duquette discussed his team’s remaining free agent efforts today with Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com. While declining to discuss reported target Yovani Gallardo directly, Duquette did shed some light on that pursuit in acknowledging his efforts to “bolster” the staff. He talked about the difficulty of parting with a draft pick, and spoke quite disparagingly of the idea of giving an opt-out clause to a player, saying that he doesn’t “see any advantage to the club with that type of relationship.” That appears to be a key factor in the talks between team and player.
- Duquette also touched upon the potential for an outfield addition, calling that “possible” while saying that he thinks the team has “enough outfield depth.” Duquette did note the interest in adding a quality on-base threat to the top of the lineup, which would seem to make Dexter Fowler an appealing match. Reports earlier today connected Baltimore to veteran free agent.
- Giving up two top-thirty draft picks to sign Gallardo and Fowler appears to be a possible outcome at this point for the Orioles, though there are still plenty of other scenarios as well. Dave Cameron of Fangraphs recently broke down the argument for signing both players, presumably at reduced guarantees, thereby reducing the average draft pick cost. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports takes a look, too, crediting the organization for being willing to spend but suggesting that it needs to find a way to replace the lost draft picks (and prospects sent out via trade) in some other way — most likely by ramping up international spending.
- The Yankees and recently-acquired reliever Aroldis Chapman are set for a hearing on February 19, Jon Heyman reports on Twitter. There’s more than $4MM separating the sides’ filing numbers, so obviously both sides have ample incentive (and time) to work out a compromise. If not, it would make for an interesting case, albeit perhaps a sub-optimal way for their relationship to begin.