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Chuck LaMar chat
12/15/2004 5:04 PM ET
Devil Rays general manager Chuck LaMar made only one deal during the Winter Meetings, trading right-hander Chad Gaudin to the Blue Jays for catcher Kevin Cash. The Rays still need a left fielder to fill in for Rocco Baldelli for the first two months of next season. They also need to sign or trade for a third baseman and maybe a shortstop if they trade Julio Lugo. They would also like to get a full-time designated hitter. Free agent Juan Gonzalez is a strong possibility, but he has to agree to a low-base contract with plenty of incentives.

LaMar chatted with fans on Wednesday, Dec. 15. Read the transcript of the chat below.

Now that the Red Sox have signed Edgar, have the Cardinals or any other teams been interested in acquiring Julio Lugo?

Chuck LaMar: We have several teams interested in acquiring Lugo. We are not actively shopping him, but we would have to consider trading him for young prospects if we got the opportunity.

Do you still plan on signing Carl Crawford and Rocco Baldelli? If not to long-term contracts, what about short term, maybe three to four years?

LaMar: We started negotiations last summer on long-term contracts for Carl and Rocco. Those discussions will continue after the first of the year. It is the organization's intent to hang on to as many young players as possible.

Do you think Carl Crawford should have won the Gold Glove Award?

LaMar: We thought Carl Crawford was the best defenive left fielder in the American League last year. However, they give three Gold Gloves away and they don't have to be by position. If Carl continues to play as he has, we feel he will have a chance to win many Gold Gloves.

Nick Johnson's name has popped up, is this a real possibility?

LaMar: We have had discussions with the Nationals concerning Johnson. But there has been no movement on that front in the last few days.

Does Delmon Young have a chance at reaching the big leagues this year?

LaMar: I would think Young would start at the Double-A level with the Montgomery Biscuits and the earliest he would be called up is Sept. 1.

Where do you plan on playing B.J. Upton next season in terms of position and club? There are numerous rumors floating around, some stating that he'd be the Opening Day third baseman in Tampa Bay, others stating that he'd start down at Triple-A Durham to polish his defense at shortstop.

LaMar: I would expect Upton to start in Durham as their shortstop and continue to improve his overall game. But sometime in 2005, he will be back with the Major League club and be here to stay.

How are contract negotiations with first-round pick Jeff Niemann coming along? Can a deal be expected anytime soon?

LaMar: Negotiations are ongoing and I would expect something to get done early next year so he would be ready to go for Major League Spring Training.

Who are the current candidates to fill in for Rocco Baldelli over the first two months?

LaMar: Our current plan is to move Carl Crawford to center field until Rocco is healthy. And we'll either move Aubrey Huff to left field in the meantime or sign a free agent.

What are the chances of the D-Rays trading for some pitching prospects?

LaMar: All teams in Major League Baseball are reluctant to trade young starting pitching. However, if we were to move one of our quality veteran players, we would be looking for pitching prospects in return.

The free agent market has proven to be more expensive than the Devil Rays expected, and thus, we have not signed many free agents. Can we expect any roster moves of any sort over the remainder of the offseason?

LaMar: There are several roster moves remaining for this offseason. We felt like we laid the groundwork during the Winter Meetings and there should be significant player movement over the next several weeks.

Elijah Dukes broke out last season with a tremendous .332-.416-.540-8-34-16 SB effort in 58 games at Class A Bakersfield. He was also recently named the best athlete in the Rays' system by Baseball America. How does he figure into the current outfield logjam?

LaMar: We think Dukes has outstanding ability and did have a breakthrough season in 2004. We project him to start in Double-A Montgomery next year and he could be with the Devil Rays as early as 2007.

Where does Joey Gathright fit into the picture for 2005?

LaMar: We would like to send Gathright back for at least half a season in Triple-A, but he could possibly start in the outfield and free up money to help sign players at other positions.

Tony Batista is a great fit for third base and moving Huff to first base. Is that your scenario?

LaMar: We have had discussions with Batista's agent for a possible third baseman/DH. We should know something within the next week or two.

As late as the free agent market lasts nowadays, do you think there's still a purpose for the Winter Meetings? Could they be moved back or elminated altogether?

LaMar: There has been a lot of discussion about either moving the date of the Winter Meetings or separating the Major League meetings from the minor league meetings. But I believe they will stay the way they are in the next few years.

How did the Scott Kazmir trade come around? I, like many other Devil Rays fans, think it was an absolutely terrific deal, probably the best of our team's short career.

LaMar: As in any good trade, you have to give up something to get something. We gave up our top starter, Victor Zambrano, and got one of the fine young pitching prospects in the game. If Scott stays healthy over the next few years, he will prove to be a very successful, upper-rotation type of starter.

How difficult is it for you to compete with teams like the Yankees and Red Sox?

LaMar: What most fans don't realize is that the Devil Rays were only one game under .500 against everyone but the Red Sox and Yankees in 2004. We will eventually compete with both these teams when that time comes where the development of our young players meets a substantial increase in payroll. I truly believe that by 2006/2007, our nucleus of players will have developed to the point where, if we significantly increase payroll, we will have one of the best teams in the American League.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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