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2009 Trade Deadline Preview: Tampa Bay Rays

Buyers or sellers?

The Rays are probably going to be holders before anything, but if I had to label them with a short-term title I would say they are closer to being buyers than they're sellers. The Rays are only 4 ½ games behind the first place Yankees and still have a few holes they could fill prior to the deadline.

Short-term need

On the surface the Rays probably have one immediate short-term need, and that's catcher. The rest of their infield is pretty stout. They had all-stars at every infield position, excluding catcher. Dioner Navarro has been nothing short of a disappointment for the Rays this year .226/.253/.328. Additionally, his backup Michel Hernandez has been just as bad, if not worse .256/.291/.329. The Rays more than anything need some guys in house to start performing at a more consistent level. Players like B.J. Upton, Pat Burrell, Scott Kazmir, Jeff Niemann and David Price have been very inconsistent in their play throughout the entire season. If these players settle in and start performing at a more consistent level the Rays will be fine, and should find themselves right in the thick of the postseason race. However, don't expect the Rays to be very active. I wouldn't be surprised if the Rays didn't make any short-term quick fixes.

Long-term need

The Rays probably have the most talented young team in all of baseball, so it's tough to say what exactly their long-term need would be. Probably more than anything the Rays long-term needs are more financially focused. They're going to have to begin the process of figuring out how to keep this team together. They already completed the first part, which was signing third baseman Evan Longoria to a long-term contract, but over the course of the next few years they'll have several stars ready to hit the free agent market. In the next two years alone the Rays have roughly 76% of their current roster up for free agency including Carlos Pena, Carl Crawford, Pat Burrell, Troy Percival, Chad Bradford, Akinori Iwamura, Dioner Navarro, Jason Bartlett, Grant Balfour, Joe Nelson, Gabe Gross, Gabe Kapler, Jeff Niemann, Randy Choate, B.J. Upton, J.P. Howell, Matt Garza, Ben Zobrist, and Joe Dillon. Things are going to start getting expensive in Tampa, the Rays bubble may be in jeopardy of bursting real soon.

Big leaguers on the market?

I don't expect the Rays to have any big leaguers on the market; they're in contention and really have no reason to deal anybody on their current major league roster. However, as we've said things are going to start getting expensive in Tampa soon, so maybe if someone blew them away with an offer they might trade someone like either Scott Kazmir or Carl Crawford, but it's unlikely. Kazmir just signed a new three-year deal, where he is scheduled to make $6 million in 2009, $8 million in 2010, $12 million in 2011 and a club option for $13.5 million in 2012 (which has a $2.5 million buyout). Crawford's current contract has a club option for $10 million next year, which could increase to $11.5 million with escalators. Both contracts are pretty expensive for the Rays so it's not out of the realm of possibility for the Rays to listen to offers, but I wouldn't expect them to deal either player.

Minor league strength

The Rays minor league system has thinned out a bit, which is understandable given how many major league stars they have produced over the last few years. They still have a few young potential stars, which for the most part seem to be pitchers. Of course the cornerstone of their young pitching is former number one overall selection David Price. However, Price isn't the only young pitcher the Rays have. They also have two really good young pitchers in Wade Davis and Jeremy Hellickson. John Sickels of Minor League Ball considers Davis a "Gil Meche" type, and Hellickson he says has "Excellent combination of command with solid stuff."

One area that the Rays probably need to address is looking to add some depth to their system with position players. They have one really good position player in shortstop Tim Beckham (2008 number one overall selection). Beckham has struggled a bit so far in his career, but he's only 19, and most scouts' think he will come around soon. He's regarded as an excellent shortstop with great bat speed, which should lead to average power in his future.

In an effort to begin adding to that much needed depth the Rays used their first five draft selections in the 2009 draft on position players, which includes their first round pick, high school second baseman LeVon Washington.

Take on short-term money to win?

The Rays could probably take on some money, but it could only be a very small amount. However, I doubt the Rays are thrilled about the idea of taking on additional money, but if a deal came along that made them considerably better they might take a shot.

For more coverage of the Rays check out DRays Bay.