Monday, December 18, 2017
Tampa Bay Rays

Tampa Bay Rays' possible trade deadline moves complicated by injuries

The steady string of injuries resulting in 14 players going on the disabled list has kept the Rays roster in constant transition.

They've already used 41 players (including eight third basemen and 10 cleanup hitters), have taken the usual action of five in-season acquisitions (Brandon Allen, Hideki Matsui, Rich Thompson, Drew Sutton and Brooks Conrad) and have made 32 transactions between Triple-A Durham and the majors.

And now comes the hard part.

Baseball's nonwaiver trade deadline is 30 days away, and the chatter among teams has already started, though with uncertainty of how having a second wild card will impact teams' decision-making.

The Rays are in a tough spot, not knowing exactly what their biggest needs are without knowing when, or if, they'll get their key injured players back.

"So much of what we do or how aggressive we are or what we focus on will be dictated by our health," executive vice president Andrew Friedman.

If they knew for sure outfielder Matt Joyce and third baseman Evan Longoria would be back soon, they could focus on obvious, though hard to fill, needs, upgrading at catcher and/or shortstop. (In the interim, shortstop Reid Brignac may get called up from Durham for another shot.)

But with no assurances, they have to look broader for ways to bolster their offense (Alfonso Soriano is already being rumored) then make decisions closer to the deadline. There's also the theory, tossed out by ESPN's Buster Olney, that they become sellers and seek to dump potential free agents-to-be Carlos Peña, James Shields and B.J. Upton, though that seems unlikely as much as they've committed to winning this year.

"We've compiled a target list of guys and we're going about our scouting coverage as if we don't get healthy, just so that we're prepared," Friedman said. "In our strategy meetings, it's all been about being prepared. So that's what we're doing to be sure that we can be in position to go whichever way the situation dictates."

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