NEW YORK — Whether the Rays decide to make a big deal, more likely to add an impact bat than an arm, by the July 31 deadline for nonwaiver trades is going to require some tough decisions.
Two key issues are the potential impact of the player they are talking about getting, because it's going to have to be high end, and the cost of the acquisition, more in terms of prospects than money and more in the long term than the short.
Going into the final two weeks, executive vice president Andrew Friedman made it sound as if their bar was high and their expectations low.
"We'll have a lot of conversations as we try to ascertain if there's a great fit for us or not," Friedman said. "On the surface, there aren't very many guys available that fit us extremely well. We also have a lot of depth internally that we're focused on, and because of that depth, the bogey for a player we acquire from the outside is higher. He has to be a really impactful player."
There aren't a lot of those type of hitters available, a small group that potentially includes Washington's Adam Dunn, Milwaukee's Prince Fielder, Philadelphia's Jayson Werth, Houston's Lance Berkman (who'd have to waive a no-trade clause) and to a lesser degree maybe Milwaukee's Corey Hart, Toronto's Jose Bautista, Chicago's Derrick Lee, Kansas City's Jose Guillen and Seattle's Russell Branyan.
And identifying whom to go after might be the easy part as the Rays have to weigh how much of their future to give up for the chance to win now.
For example — and just for example — say they were talking about Dunn, who would be essentially a rent-a-player for this season. If the cost were top OF prospect Desmond Jennings, they have to decide if getting two months of Dunn is worth giving up a guy who could be a star for six years.
The conversation — again, for example — is different about Fielder because they'd have him for 2011 but they'd also have to pay him close to $15 million, which wouldn't work.
Even with principal owner Stuart Sternberg's declaration that money won't be an object, Friedman said their approach hasn't changed much from the previous two seasons, when they pursued Jason Bay, Victor Martinez and Cliff Lee, among others.
"Our focus before the trade deadline has always been to really lock in on impactful type players that could make a significant difference and not necessarily make a move to make a move," he said. "Then in years past, we spent August kind of focusing on the complementary type pieces. Just this year, there are less impact type guys than there were in '08 and '09."