It has been a slow off-season for the Rays, as they have been hesitant to get involved in this year’s free agency not-so-free-for all. And since the winter meetings, the news has come even slower than Toby Hall trying to score from second on a single. Andrew Friedman and company seem to be more intent on improving the team through trades than over-spending on a mediocre free agency class. The most-oft targets of trade discussions and rumors have been Rocco Baldelli and B. J. Upton. Now add Elijah Dukes name to the rumor mill. According to one source, Pittsburgh Pirates are in discussions with the Rays and the object of their affection is Dukes. The source does not indicate who the Rays are asking for in return, but they do speculate that the Rays would demand either closer Mike Gonzalez or young starter Tom Gorzelanny. Gonzalez is 28 years old, but is not eligible for arbitration until after the 2007 season. Gorzelanny was selected in the second round of the 2003 draft, and went 2-5 with a 3.79 ERA in 11 starts for the Buccos.
While nothing appears imminent, moving Dukes still does not make the Rays opening day lineup any less murky. As long as Baldelli and Jorge Cantu remain with the Rays, Upton is a man without a position. However, without Dukes, it increases the likelihood that super-utility man Ty Wiggington would be the first baseman on most days.