In the likely scenario that the Rays do not make a headline trade in the next few days, there certainly will be a fair amount of disappointment among the fan base. To be fair, the gripes will be legitimate, as there are plenty of talented players that would be a great fit for the Rays that are either available (Dunn, Willingham, Scott, to name a few) or have been available during the past month (Cliff Lee and Werth come to mind). Also, the Rays have a very deep system of prospects, as well valuable trade chips at the major league level. Just to add fuel to the fire, Stuart Sternberg came out and said that, "money won't be an object," when it comes to any in-season acquisitions. So with all this, why should we not be disappointed if the Rays are the same team on August 1st as they are today?
As has been said a thousand times, winning the division would be nice but the Wild Card has always been the more realistic option. To win the Wild Card, the Rays simply need to stay ahead of the Red Sox, which is looking more and more likely every day. From where the Rays and Sox stand (after the games on July 27th), if the Rays play to a 90-win talent level, they should reach 96 wins (61-38 current + 35-28). For the Red Sox to pull past the Rays and get to 97 wins (57-44 current + 40-21), they would have to play at a .656 level, or a 106 win team over the course of a full season.
In short, if the Rays play to what should be their true talent level, the Red Sox would have to put up a fairly super-human effort (especially considering their injuries) in order to catch up. For the Rays, another bat to fill out the lineup and replace the black hole that has been reclassified as a DH position would be fantastic, but is not strictly necessary. An Adam Dunn or a Luke Scott would increase the size of the ditch between the Rays and Sox, but the question we need to consider is simple: is it worth losing the prospects to widen a gap that the Red Sox may not be able to close? Or, is it worth making a trade when other solutions exist in-house (Hellickson in the pen, Matt Joyce in the DH slot more often)?
One other thing worth noting is the propensity of the Rays front office to only make a trade when the right deal is available. Overall, I trust Friedman and co. to make the right decisions with their prospects, as well as passing on players such as Dunn and Scott when the price is too high. Again, I would love to add a huge bat to the lineup, but the bottom line is that the Rays are good enough as is to make the playoffs this year without sacrificing the future.
To summarize, if the Rays do not make a trade by the end of the week, there is no reason to panic, scream bloody murder, or accuse the front office of being cheap, lacking a winning attitude, etc. They have the track record to be trusted, end of story. Of course, this is all not even considering any moves that could be made after the trade deadline, a la the Kazmir trade. A move like that could be enough to shore up the lineup or bullpen, or fill in the gap created by some unforeseen future injury. The possibilities are endless and the future is chaotic, but I think the smart money is on the Rays winning the Wild Card, regardless of whether or not they make any changes to their roster before the end of the season. Once in the playoffs, with their starting rotation, the Rays should have as good of a shot as anyone, which is all we can hope for as fans.
So now I leave it up to you: what does everyone think the Rays should do?