Now that former Rays skipper Joe Maddon has signed with the Cubs, the Rays find themselves at a philosophical crossroads, writes Buster Olney of ESPN (Insider only). The Rays must decide whether to pursue tampering charges against the Cubs. Per Olney, the Rays thought they were close to signing Maddon to a multi-year extension before he ultimately opted out of his contract. The timing seems suspicious, but it may be difficult to prove tampering.
The Rays have two options. They can either ignore the whiff of wrong doing or pursue an investigation. Major League Baseball has the authority to demand phone and email records from all 30 clubs, so a basic investigation is possible. Other small market teams, tired of being bullied by the big spenders, would ostensibly support an investigation. If tampering is proven, the Cubs could be forced to relinquish a player in return for Maddon. Historically, such returns have been middling. Randy Winn was traded for Lou Piniella, reliever Chris Carpenter was dealt for Theo Epstein, and the pair of Jhan Marinez and Ozzie Martinez were sent to the White Sox for Ozzie Guillen.
- Despite turmoil atop the Rays organization, Ben Zobrist is excited to have his $7.5MM club option exercised, writes Marc Tomkin of the Tampa Bay Times. He expressed faith in GM Matt Silverman along with lieutenants Chaim Bloom and Erik Neander. Zobrist is set to become the first player in Rays franchise history to begin a 10th season with the club.
- The Orioles declined a $17.5MM option for Nick Markakis a few days ago, but they’re still striving to re-sign him, reports Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun. One person who expects Markakis to return is manager Buck Showalter. The Orioles can negotiate exclusively with Markakis through Monday night. They also need to decide on a potential qualifying offer, which could depend on the character of their negotiations. After considering his $2MM buyout, the $15.3MM qualifying offer is just a $200K savings over the club option. If the club is confident Markakis will pursue a multi-year deal elsewhere, they may be more inclined to make the offer.
- Baltimore officially declined Nick Hundley’s 2015 option via Twitter. The club is potentially interested in re-signing Hundley at a rate below his $5MM option, tweets Roch Kobatko of MASNsports.com. The 40 man roster now stands at 31 players according to Kubatko (also Twitter). We first learned the Orioles planned to decline the option last Thursday.