May 1, 2012; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman talks to the media after signing designator hitter Hideki Matsui (not pictured) to a minor league contract at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE
The 4:00 trading deadline came and went today without the Rays making a move. This was, of course, to be expected. Yet already, many have started complaining over the lack of moves made to improve the offense.
However, there are several reasons for the lack of moves. Two of these are outlined below.
1. The Rays Had No Obvious Position To Improve
Given the Rays current state of the Rays offense (and defense for most of the reason, for that matter), this seems like a strange reason. However, as I outlined earlier today, many of the positions are filled with core, young players who figure to be a vital part of the Rays future success.
First base is currently the home of Carlos Pena. While Pena doesn't figure to be a member of the Rays after this season, he is being payed a hefty sum by Rays' standards, and the Rays need to juice every ounce of production out of him. In addition to this, the first base position was void of players available at the trade deadline. Scanning across MLB rosters, few teams have a cost controlled first baseman that the Rays desire. And if they did, it would certainly take a huge sum for the Rays to acquire the said player.
Second base is manned by Ben Zobrist, so there is no need for an upgrade there.
A position of current need, shortstop is an area in which the Rays could have made an upgrade since neither Elliot Johnson or Sean Rodriguez are enviable options down the stretch. However, such a player would be a rental with both Tim Beckham and Hak-Ju Lee close to major league ready. The only shortstop traded during the deadline was Marco Scutaro, the same player who only managed to hit .274/.326/.364 despite playing half of his games in the offensive haven known as Coors Field.
While Longoria probably won't play a significant portion of his games at third base for the remainder of the year, he is the definite long term solution, so once again, the Rays could only take a rental player. Plus, they already acquired Ryan Roberts to temporarily fill the hole.
The most obvious position for improvement is the catching position. Beside the fact that there are no available affordable, quality catchers on the market, the Rays, surprisingly, are also getting okay production from that spot. Jose Lobaton probably has a future with the club, so his spot is secure. Underrating Molina is not something new among fans, so I suggest you read this article on his value.
While production from the designated hitter position has been weak thus far, Evan Longoria is a mere few days from returning to the team and commandeering the position.
Desmond Jennings and Matt Joyce, two players with bright futures. fill the two corner outfield positions, and though BJ Upton is having a poor season, he provided the Rays with a spark late in the season last year, something he could do again this year.
As seen, the Rays don't have a superb group of talent on the offensive side, but there was no clear position for them to find an upgrade.
2. The Rays Never Had A Suitable Offer For Shields
As much as we can pretend to have all the information of what goes on behind closed doors, we have no real knowledge of any of the offers presented to the Rays for Shields. For all we know, the Rays could have been low-balled by other teams who refused to depart with their top prospects (The Rays never were going to get young, quality MLB players in the deal for Shields. It would have been prospects.). After all, it is reported that several of the Rangers top prospects, such as Profar, Perez, and Olt, were untouchable! For the Rays to trade a valuable player like Shields despite still being fairly competitive, they needed to be blown away with a deal. A good enough package of players not involving those three is tough to imagine (but possible).
The rumors are that the Rays demanded a return larger than the one the Brewers netted for Zack Greinke. That is certainly understandable given that Greinke is a rental while Shields has options for two more years. But if teams were unwilling to depart with their top prospects, making them untouchable, it is unlikely any of the packages were competitive enough for the Rays to accept unless they consisted of a massive quantity of prospects.
The deadline was certainly a dull one for Rays' fans, but that should have been expected. The Rays didn't have a specific position to upgrade without sacrificing playing time for core players or shipping off too much talent. It takes two to tango, and all things considered, there is a reason why the Rays didn't make a notable trade.