PHILADELPHIA — By nature, and by title, principal owner Stuart Sternberg has a different perspective in watching the Rays play.
And while some see a team struggling mightily offensively, wearing out its bullpen and gasping in an extended spiral of 18 losses in 25 games, he sees a team good enough to remain competitive the rest of the season without any major additions or changes.
"Right now, even though we might not be performing as we'd like to be, or as others would like us to be, I can't point to anything so glaring, or any of our players so glaring, that we could, or would, replace them," Sternberg said before Monday's 5-3 loss to the worst-in-baseball Phillies.
"We do believe strongly that the organization we have and the roster we have in place are good enough to get us to where we need to get to."
With the July 31 deadline for nonwaiver trades approaching, there is natural speculation that the Rays could address their offensive inadequacies by making a deal for a big bat, with Justin Upton, Ryan Howard and Carlos Gomez among the names at the top of most lists.
But Sternberg indicated the Rays will treat the deadline as they typically do, a time to talk but likely not act on anything major.
"People say, 'Buyer? Seller?' It will be no different than we've done in years past," he said. "I think we're in almost precisely the same spot we've been in every year since '08. Which is, we're close, we feel we have a really good team. We'd like to see our team on the field all at once. And we'll try to be opportunistic."
He also said they "absolutely" could trade away pieces if they were to drop out of the race over the next 10 days, but "we're anticipating that we're going to be in the hunt come the end of July."
Sternberg said they were either content with what they have offensively or confident of improvement at all positions, and that acquisition costs made a major move unlikely. (Though he did say they would be open to trading top prospects from what he now considers a "really robust" farm system in the right deal.)
"Clearly you can find an All-Star or Hall of Famer at various positions but the cost is too prohibitive as far as players and money to get them," he said. "Nobody is trading those guys. And to do something that is anything significant in terms of an upgrade is kind of difficult because there are a lot of teams looking for players who are significant upgrades."
In making his point, he ran through the lineup position by position, and noting that the contributions the players made to run prevention were also significant. Some excerpts:
"I'd love to see (injured Desmond) Jennings come back and (Steven) Souza (Jr.) come back, and I think we have a pretty good outfield.
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"We've got (Evan Longoria) at third. You've got (Logan) Forsythe at second. (James) Loney has been fine at first. It's not like you're going to go out and get necessarily somebody who'd dramatically better than James Loney at first. (Asdrubal) Cabrera as shortstop, we believe he can perform better offensively, and the defense we wouldn't be able to replicate.
"Similar to (Rene) Rivera behind the plate. … (Giants MVP) Buster Posey isn't necessarily available." — At least not since 2008, when the Rays made Tim Beckham the top pick of the draft over him. — "Catchers are in short supply who can hit and catch the ball well, and we happen to put catching the ball well at a premium. So to get both of those things would be impossible. And we do expect Rivera to perform better with the bat going forward."
That leaves DH as an area of potential improvement, but Sternberg said they feel John Jaso, who was recently activated from the DL, can hit enough: "Are you going to get somebody much better than John Jaso? … Nobody's looking to just give a bat who's a good deal better than John Jaso. And anything else we do in the field will take away from our run prevention, so you've got to balance those things out."
Sternberg said last July's big deal, when they traded too-expensive David Price for pitcher Drew Smyly, infielder Nick Franklin and prospect infielder Willy Adames was "really sort of an ideal trade deadline thing.
"We didn't do what we had to do, but we did something that we felt made the team better on the field and didn't really weaken us at the deadline."