As we approach July 31, we will preview what each team is projected to do in advance of the non-waiver trade deadline. For a complete listing of our previews, click here.
Tampa Bay Rays: 44-42, 3rd in the AL East
After finishing last in the AL East in 2016, the small-market Rays are back in the mix for a playoff spot. They are currently in a three-way tie with the Royals and the Twins for the second wild card spot and are only 5 1⁄2 games behind the Red Sox for first in the division.
The Rays have stayed in postseason contention despite seeing Kevin Kiermaier, Brad Miller and Brad Boxberger go down with injuries at some point. In addition, there have been talks of them possibly dealing some of their key pitchers, namely Alex Cobb, Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi, in an effort to rebuild after employing this strategy within the last year. They shipped Matt Moore to the Giants last season and sent Drew Smyly to the Mariners in January.
Because of where they stand, the Rays can either become an interesting player in the trade market in the coming weeks.
What moves have they made so far?
The Rays kicked off the trade deadline season by acquiring shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria from the Marlins on June 26. They gave up minor-league outfielder Braxton Lee and right-hander Ethan Clark for Hechavarria, an immediate upgrade that they needed. Hechavarria has taken over at short while Tim Beckham has moved to second base.
Before that trade, the Rays had only two other major transactions. The first came in December when they signed catcher Wilson Ramos. Ramos, an All-Star with the Nationals last year who signed a two-year, $12.5 million contract, missed the first 76 games of the year due to a torn ACL. The Rays activated Ramos on June 24 after designating former All-Star catcher Derek Norris for assignment.
Another small deal the Rays made was acquiring Trevor Plouffe and cash from the Athletics in June. Plouffe has played in 10 games so far for the Rays, slashing .250/.308/.417.
Are they buyers or sellers?
With a trade already completed, the Rays are signaling that they are buyers, according to our own MLB Insider Chris Cotillo. However, will they keep acquiring assets in order to make a run for the postseason?
Their history indicates that they will not keep buying, as Cotillo points out that they have only made only three small pre-deadline trade additions in the last 10 years. They acquired outfielder Gabe Gross in 2008, reliever Chad Qualls in 2010 and infielder Ryan Roberts in 2012.
But, the Rays may sell off a big piece like Cobb, Archer or Odorozzi depending on where they stand on July 31. If they do, they will do it in a way in which they will get a maximum return for them by receiving impact players who can help them now and in the future.
Who will they target?
The Rays have not actively pursued anyone else other than Hechavarria. However, they would love to get some quality relief pitching without dealing a lot of their big-time prospects. They have five players ranked in Top 100, according to MLBPipeline.com.
As Cotillo mentioned, the Rays can go after some middle relievers to put in front of closer Alex Colome. After all, these type of pitchers are not in high demand most of the time at the trade deadline, allowing the Rays to keep their big assets in Willy Adames, Brent Honeywell, Jose De Leon, Jake Bauers and Casey Gillaspie.
Even though it would be exciting if they kept going after more big-name players, the Rays will stick to what they have and not make any drastic trades. Their biggest additions will come from inside the organization, with Kiermaier, Miller, Boxberger and Matt Duffy all scheduled to come back healthy before the end of the season.
As far as Cobb, Archer and Odorizzi, the Rays will hang on to them because they will still be in contention. The only way they would deal Cobb, a free agent at the end of this year, Archer or Odorizzi is if they are blown away with an offer that can set them up really nice for the future. Because they will stay, the price of other quality starters like Sonny Gray and Jose Quintana has increased even more.
These three, along with Jacob Faria and Blake Snell, are good enough to help the Rays make the postseason. Whether or not they make the playoffs, the Rays will still be in good shape for the future because of what they have in their farm system already.