NASHVILLE — Just because the Rays went home without announcing any significant additions than the new netting to protect fans at Tropicana Field doesn't mean this week's winter meetings won't turn out to be a big deal.
While the Rays join the other teams in taking advantage of the forced proximity to accelerate and expand conversations, they are adamant, if not almost defiant, about not being driven to make a decision on an artificial deadline more than two months before the start of spring training.
"There's no magic," baseball operations president Matt Silverman said.
But plenty of work gets done.
The Rays use the meetings more for the foundation building, using the gathered information to construct the framework of some of the biggest trades in franchise history.
In four of the past five years, they came home from the meetings and within a couple of weeks, or even just a few days, made headline news.
After the 2010 meetings, they traded Matt Garza to the Cubs for the five-player package that provided All-Star ace Chris Archer. They came back in 2012 and quickly finalized the blockbuster deal to send James Shields and Wade Davis to Kansas City for Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi. After the 2013 meetings, they made a trade with the Padres that yielded 2015 All-Star Brad Boxberger and team MVP Logan Forsythe.
And last year, they staged a doubleheader, sending former All-Star Matt Joyce to the Angels for Kevin Jepsen one day, then making the 11-player three-team swap that sent Myers to San Diego and brought in Steven Souza Jr.
Sometimes, the deals are pretty much in place and the Rays just want to get away from the frenzied meetings scene to be sure.
"I'm not saying that other teams are cavalier, but we're very deliberate in our process, and especially if we're considering larger deals," Silverman said. "We want to make sure that we cover all of our bases and go through the same processes that we would if we weren't here in Nashville under one roof."
And other times their trades are the result of changes in the market; the byproduct of deals that are, or aren't, made between other teams; or free agent decisions that lead the runnersup to move on to Plan B. That can make deals that previously didn't quite work more plausible, lead to new configurations or even totally new ideas pitched in unexpected, even urgent, calls.
So even though the Rays left with their pitching depth intact, that doesn't mean they won't turn around and take advantage of the inflated market to trade one of their starting pitchers — Drew Smyly, Matt Moore, Jake Odorizzi or injured Alex Cobb — as well as one of their two late-inning relievers, Boxberger or Jake McGee.
For example, while the Cubs are saying publicly after dealing Starlin Castro (to the Yankees) and signing ex-Ray Ben Zobrist that they have big plans for infielder Javier Baez, there are indications they will still trade him. That could lead to re-engaging with the Rays, who covet his impact bat and can provide the pitching the Cubs still need.
And there are others. Though the Astros seem to have filled their bullpen needs elsewhere, the Dodgers, after a trade for Aroldis Chapman was derailed, might now have interest in McGee or Boxberger. The Giants are looking to add a starter but in exchange for prospects, which the Rays could make work. So, too, are the Rangers, among others.
Though no deals were said to be as close at the end of the meetings as in previous years, that could change quickly.
"There's certainly been enough seeds planted," Silverman said, "that we're going to have an interesting couple weeks of follow-up."
Contact Marc Topkin at [email protected]m. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.