Starting tonight, the Rays will play their next 11 games against the Yankees (8 games) and the Red Sox (3 games). Many talking heads believe that these 11 games will decide whether the Rays will remain contenders and whether they will be “buyers” or “sellers” at the trade deadline.
This might be true for most teams, but the Rays have never been “most teams” and there is no reason to think they will start acting like most teams in the next three weeks.
Will the Rays be “buyers” or “sellers”?
First of all, by their very nature, the Rays will always be “sellers.” The Rays prefer cheap, young talent with upside. And those are the type of players that you get by selling older, more expensive pieces like Scott Kazmir, or Matt Garza.
This is the Rays Modus Operandi. And it will never change, no matter what time of year or what the standings look like.
So the question then becomes: Will the Rays also be “buyers”? Ken Davidoff suggested as much when an official from a National League club told him that the Rays “are buying and selling.”
The Rays could certainly add
a cheap roll player or two, as they have in years past with players such as Gregg Zaun in 2009 and Chad Qualls last year. But the Rays have been contenders each of the last three seasons, and only once (Jason Bay in 2008) did they even come close to acquiring a top player in a blockbuster deal.
Two things work against the Rays ever being legit “buyers” at the trade deadline…
The Deadline is always a “sellers” market
And that will never be more true than this year. Prior to last night’s games, 17 of 30 teams were within 5 games of a playoff spot. And 12 of those teams were within 2 games.
That is a lot of teams that will be looking for that one piece to put them over the hump down the stretch.
More teams in the hunt, means more “buyers.” More demand means higher prices. And the Rays are not a team that ever overpays for anything.
The Rays are not a team that makes impulse buys
The Rays are a homework team. They do better than other teams on the exams because they out-study the other teams. And in order to study, they need information.
Certainly the Rays have a lot of information on a lot of players, especially pieces they may be targeting in a trade. But what happens at 3:30 on July 31 when the A’s and Rays are close to a deal, and Billy Beane offers Andrew Friedman an extra prospect the Rays know little about? The deal won’t get done.
The Rays always have a plan. They don’t guess. They don’t throw darts with their eyes closed. And they certainly don’t trade for players that they haven’t fully vetted.
What can we expect?
The usual. The Rays will be passively active at the deadline, just like they always are. That is, they will answer all the calls. They might even make one or two.
But like we have always said, they are not a team that likes to negotiate. They always have a plan. They know what they want. They know what they are willing to offer. There may be a little wiggle room built in, but unless the other team is willing to meet the Rays price, any potential deal will fall apart. And there is a good chance it will have fallen apart before we even hear about it.
In other words…the trading deadline for the Rays will be what it always is, full of sound of fury, but signifying only their stinginess.
It is also unlikely to be influenced by what the Rays do in the next two weeks. The view from the Rays offices is always much bigger than two weeks worth of games.