Depending what you believe, the Tampa Bay Rays could either be huge sellers or buyers at this year's trade deadline. Just last week, there was a rumor that the Rays were considering trading James Shields, B.J. Upton, and/or Carlos Pena by the deadline, and yesterday there was a mention that the Rays were one of the teams interested in Shane Victorino. Confused? Tell me about it -- the trade season muddle has already begun.
It's tempting to want to debate and argue over if the Rays should buy or sell at the deadline, but if we're honest about it, the truth is that it's impossible to tell right now which way the Rays will decide to go. Andrew Friedman has explicitly stated that a large part of his strategy will be based around whether Evan Longoria and Matt Joyce return shortly after the All-Star Break, and more than that, there are still 29 days until the deadline. That is plenty of time for a team's playoff odds change and to come into focus, so it'd be shortsighted of us to make our guesses solely off the Rays' position in the standings at the moment.
If I had to make a guess, though, I'd say that the Rays will be buyers at the deadline...that is, if they make a move at all. Friedman has been notoriously loathe to deal at the trade deadline in recent years, and the high prices on the trade market were so outrageous last year that they drove him into the hospital.* The mid-season trade market tends to be a bad time to acquire someone, but at the same time, it's pretty obvious that the Rays need help.
*Note: Not actually true.
So why would the Rays be buyers at the deadline? They've been in a horrendous slump recently and they've slid all the way to fourth place in the AL East -- a full 6.5 games back from the Yankees, despite winning last night. But if you look at the Wild Card picture in the AL, things change dramatically: the Rays are a mere half game back from the second Wild Card slot. The Angels have a 2.5 game lead over the Baltimore Orioles for the first Wild Card spot, but then the Red Sox and Rays are both 0.5 games back from the O's. While the Rays are actually doing worse than they were at this point last season -- 46-37, five games back in the division -- that extra Wild Card slot keeps them in the race. These injuries may be wrecking havok on the team right now, but if Longoria and Joyce can return soon, the overall damage to their playoff hopes will be minimal.
We'll be kicking off our Trade Deadline Coverage over the next week or so, but in the meantime, I'm curious: which players do you think would be good potential fits for the Rays? Who would you like to see them go after? Or do you think the Rays should actually be sellers at this year's deadline? We'll take all your thoughts into consideration, and then provide trade deadline profiles on some of the more likely candidates.