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Marc Topkin, Times Staff Writer

Marc Topkin

Marc Topkin has covered baseball for the Times since 1987 — from the lengthy effort to secure a team, to the awarding of the Tampa Bay franchise in 1995, and through each of the Rays seasons starting in 1998. He has traveled throughout the United States with the team, as well as to Canada, Venezuela, Mexico and Japan, and has covered All-Star Games and the World Series, as well as Super Bowls and the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece.

Phone: (727) 893-8801


Blog: The Heater

Twitter: @TBTimes_Rays

  1. Rays agonize over which prospects to protect on 40-man roster

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — That the Rays went right up to Monday's 8 p.m. deadline in deciding to add seven players to the 40-man roster, and that a couple they left off seem to be potential Rule 5 draft losses, was apparently a good thing.

    "There's always some decisions that you can't say you feel 100 percent about, but I think that's the nature of the beast here," senior vice president Chaim Bloom said. "What that means is that we are in a good place with our system, that our system is deeper. And it makes the decisions a lot tougher. ...

    Brent Honeywell, who was a standout at the All-Star Futures Game and impressive in his Triple-A stint, was added to the Rays’ 40-man roster and could compete for a major-league job in spring training.
  2. Topkin: As Rays start dealing, how far will they go?

    The Heater

    After collecting intelligence at last week's GM meetings, the Rays soon will launch their offseason mission of trading at least a couple of veterans to reduce payroll.

    The question is how far they will go — how many players they deal, and how big of names they are, with everyone in play on down from face-of-the-franchise 3B Evan Longoria.

    And the Rays won't know until they start the process....

    Veteran third baseman Evan Longoria appears unlikely to go anywhere, but if the Rays decide to tear down and start a total rebuild, they’ll probably at least listen to offers.
  3. Rays give Rocco Baldelli new title of major-league field coordinator


    ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays completed the new look of their coaching staff by giving Rocco Baldelli a newly created title — major-league field coordinator.

    Baldelli, who had been first-base coach the past three years, now will implement ideas and information from the staff, assist manager Kevin Cash and bench coach Charlie Montoyo during games and continue coordinating the outfield defense. He also will be a liaison to the minor-league staffs....

  4. Commissioner Rob Manfred likes Ybor City stadium site, but must see more support to keep baseball in Tampa Bay

    The Heater

    LAKE BUENA VISTA — MLB commissioner Rob Manfred didn't want to talk Thursday about what might happen if the current effort to build the Rays a new stadium at the Ybor City site falls through.

    "I'm more focused on working with the community to figure out how we can make this work," he said, "than on what's going to happen if we fail."

    But, he made clear, that the Rays and MLB need to see more — a lot more — than the plot of land....

    “We need to figure out how the community can support an effort to keep baseball in Tampa (Bay),” MLB commissioner Rob Manfred says.
  5. Rays hope to cash in on Alex Cobb leaving

    The Heater

    LAKE BUENA VISTA — The Rays were banking on pitcher Alex Cobb declining their one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer based on the lure of a longer-term and more lucrative deal elsewhere as a free agent.

    With that decision official Thursday, now the Rays are hoping he breaks the bank. Or at least the $50 million barrier.

    Under MLB's new and complicated compensation rules, the Rays will get a much better draft pick — possibly 50 slots higher — if Cobb signs for more than $50 million, which seems likely. In short, if he gets the $50 million, they get an extra pick at the end of the first round, so in the low 30s. If he doesn't, the bonus selection will be after the competitive-balance picks that follow the second round, so in the high 70s or low 80s....

    Alex Cobb, a 2006 fourth-round pick, spent 12 years in Rays organization.
  6. As he prepares to leave the Rays, how will you remember Alex Cobb?

    The Heater

    Now that Alex Cobb officially has declined the Rays' one-year, $17.4-million qualifying offer, his time in Tampa Bay has come to an end.

    Cobb has received preliminary interest from "lots of teams" already, agent Dan Horwits said. The Cubs and Twins have been mentioned most. Cobb could get a deal in line with the $70-million Ian Kennedy got over five years from the Royals or the $80-million Mike Leake got from St. Louis....

    Rays manager Joe Maddon, left, takes the ball from Alex Cobb in the seventh inning of the AL wild-card baseball game against the Cleveland Indians on Oct. 2, 2013, in Cleveland. [AP Photo/Tony Dejak]
  7. Rays journal: No big deals at GM meetings, but possible groundwork laid

    The Heater

    LAKE BUENA VISTA — Rays officials left the GM meetings without making any big deals — such as trading Alex Colome or Chris Archer to the Cardinals — but more knowledgeable about the possibilities.

    "Expectations were to utilize these few days to catch up, to check in, to get a sense of where teams are at, what their ambitions are for this winter, what they're trying to accomplish," Rays GM Erik Neander said....

  8. Watch: Brandy Halladay's emotional tribute to her late husband, Roy

    The Heater

    For his wife, Brandy, Roy Halladay was so much more than a standout pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays and Philadelphia Phillies.

    During a a celebration of life ceremony Tuesday at Spectrum Field in Clearwater, Brandy remembered Halladay — who died Nov. 7 after the plane he was piloting crashed into the Gulf of Mexico — as an amazing husband and father.

    Brandy described how she and Roy went from childhood acquaintances in Colorado to something more a few years later after a chance offseason meeting at a gym....

    Brandy Halladay becomes emotional as she talks about her late husband, Roy, during a public memorial service Tuesday in Clearwater. [CHRIS URSO   |   Times]
  9. Roy Halladay remembered as 'the real deal' at public memorial


    CLEARWATER — What Roy Halladay did supremely for 16 years as a pitcher was what brought them together Tuesday, sitting appropriately on the green grass just in front of the mound, his mound, albeit uncharacteristically in black clothes on a mid November afternoon, to share stories and tears.

    But the more former Blue Jays and Phillies teammates and bosses, father Roy Jr. and wife Brandy talked about Halladay, a week after the plane he was piloting crashed into the Gulf of Mexico, it was obvious there was so much more....

    A baseball, T-shirt and roses are placed outside Spectrum Field in Clearwater, where the public memorial service for Roy Halladay was held.
  10. Teams' interest makes it likely Alex Cobb will reject Rays' qualifying offer

    The Heater

    LAKE BUENA VISTA — Alex Cobb has heard enough good things from potential new teams that it seems fairly certain he will be saying goodbye to his old one.

    Agent Dan Horwits said there have been "a lot of teams" interested in the veteran right-hander, and while the discussions have been preliminary, it seems as if they have heard enough for Cobb to decline the Rays' one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer. That was their hope anyway, as it gives them a chance to get draft pick compensation....

    Alex Cobb appears likely to reject the Rays’ qualifying offer after drawing interest from several teams.
  11. Should the Rays consider tanking? Recent history says 'maybe'

    The Heater

    LAKE BUENA VISTA — The Rays spent considerable time and assets last season and, to a lesser degree, the previous couple trying to get the 85-88 wins necessary to squeeze their way into the playoffs.

    But here's a question, based on the teams that celebrated the past two World Series championships, worth pondering:

    Would they be better off trying to lose 100 games?

    Just for a few years, anyway. ...

    Trading stars such as third baseman Evan Longoria could enable the Rays to start a comprehensive rebuild by collecting high draft picks.
  12. Rays acknowledge they have work to do heading into GM meetings

    The Heater

    How the Rays attempt to meet the dual goals of improving their team while reducing their payroll will make for a busy, intriguing and rumor-filled winter, and potentially a study in the application of theory vs. modern day financial reality.

    But as Erik Neander and staff trek across I-4 for the annual GM meetings that start today in Orlando, he deserves credit for starting from a realistic base:...

    "We have some work to do," Erik Neander said. "We are not one piece away from having rosters that I think on any given night can stand toe-to-toe with clubs like those that went deep in the postseason. We know that." [WILL VRAGOVIC | Times]
  13. Topkin: Rays GM Erik Neander takes on bigger responsibilities with less of a safety net

    The Heater

    Rays GM Erik Neander said that, with Matt Silverman officially moving back to a team president role, nothing really will be different now that he is the top man in baseball operations.

    Except for everything that is.

    "I don't think my world and the leader­ship team's world flipped upside down,'' Neander said. "I think it's something that's been gradual enough that it's not something that's going to be drastically different from a month ago, six months ago or a year ago....

    GM Erik Neander says little will be “drastically different” now that he is top man in the baseball operations department.
  14. Front-office shuffle gives Rays two presidents

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays are always seeking to be innovative and, with a reorganization of top executives now official, decided that having two presidents is better than one.

    Matt Silverman has moved back after three years running baseball operations to the business/administrative side where he joins Brian Auld in serving as presidents — not co-presidents — in providing oversight to the entire organization on all matters. Erik Neander now assumes the top role in the baseball department....

  15. Joe Maddon brings Thanksmas back to Tampa Bay

    The Heater

    Though he has been managing the Cubs in Chicago the past three seasons, Joe Maddon and his wife, Jaye, still call Tampa home. And the former Rays manager is bringing back his Thanksmas program to serve meals at bay area homeless shelters next week.

    Maddon's Respect 90 Foundation announced plans to visit Salvation Army centers in Tampa and St. Petersburg, Tampa's Trinity Cafe and Pinellas Hope....

    Joe Maddon, who was the Tampa Bay Rays manager at the time, talks with kids before passing out gifts during his annual Thanksmas dinner and gift giveaway in 2013. Now Cubs manager, Maddon is bringing the event back to the bay area.