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Are Tampa Bay Rays Buyers Or Sellers At the 2009 MLB Trade Deadline?

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The Rays made history in 2008. In 2009, history does not look to be on their side. Thanks to this nifty piece by DRB friend Jonah Keri, we can see the odds are stacked against the Rays making the playoffs this season. Going back to 1995, the first year of the wild card, he found out the percentages of what teams made the playoffs based on their standings at the all star break. Here are the numbers from Keri's article

 

GB

% of Playoffs

Divison Ldr

69

2-5

47

5.5-8

13

8.5+

3.8

 

As you can see division leaders at the all star break make the playoffs almost 70% of the time. Now this is a bit skewed since the numbers include the wildcard. Conversely, the wildcard also affects teams like the San Francisco Giants, who are seven games out of first place, but would be a playoff team right now as the NL wildcard.

The Rays currently sit 6.5 games out of first place or in the 5.5-8 range. Since 1995, only three of 20 teams 6.5-7 games out of first place have made the playoffs (15%). The Rays are three back of the wild card, but have failed to make up any real ground on the Yankees. With the trade deadline 16 days away, the Rays are going to be faced with some tough decisions should the gap between them and the teams their chasing continue to remain stagnant.

Personally, I think if the Rays are three games or less behind the wild card around July 31st then we should look to add rather than sell. However, if they aren't able to make up ground out of the break then we could see a dramatic roster change should the Rays choose to be "sellers." Now I use the term sellers, but I don't mean moving James Shields and his team friendly contract. We all know that there is going to be some turnover from the 2009 roster to the 2010 roster; payroll dictates that much. And we all know the names out there that make the most sense. The Rays have a handful of very desirable and very valuable chips most notably Carl Crawford. I know people will say Scott Kazmir, but coming off an injury Kaz's value is lower than it should be. I think we would be better suited keeping Kazmir and explore something in the off-season if anything

Crawford would easily be the most desired bat on the market. I know Matt Holliday could be available, but CC is younger, having a better offensive season, is miles better defensively and is not just a two month rental. At age 27, CC is prime for another five year extension. I'd love for that to be here, but the economics may not work out.

Outside of Crawford, the Rays have a number of valuable pieces in the bullpen. Every year every contending team is looking to add to their bullpen. Names like Dan Wheeler, Chad Bradford, and even Joe Nelson could be very popular should the Rays decide to move some pieces. Wheeler has rebounded from a terrible start. He now sports an above average 3.58 ERA/3.95 ERA and his 3.14 K/BB is also stellar. He is owed the rest of his $3.2 million dollar salary for 2009 as well as $3.5 million for 2010. There is a $4 million dollar option for 2011 or a $1 million dollar buyout. For some teams that is a very affordable contract for at worst a league average reliever.

Bradford hasn't been sharp since his return, but I'm sure if made available, he would draw some interest now that most of his $3.5 million dollar salary for 2009 is paid. Bradford can still get ground balls with the best of them and has had a bit of bad luck since his return. Joe Nelson has had a down year (4.50 ERA/5.71 FIP), but at a pro-rated amount of the $1.3 million he is scheduled to make in 2009, I'm sure teams would like to add him.

There are others names there too, but we've already rosterbated enough. Truly, I hope this post becomes obsolete once we start playing games on Friday, but I'd be lying if said that I haven't considered the worst. The last thing I want to do is give up on 2009, but the gap remains as wide as it is or wider, than the smart move would be to make this team better for the future.