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Previewing the Rays’ trade deadline approach, by way of review

Rays Tales: Tampa Bay is usually more active when it’s a seller and other lessons.
Like all general managers, Erik Neander of the Rays, left,  and Dave Dombrowski of the Red Sox, right, have until 4 p.m. Wednesday to make trades.  DIRK SHADD   |   Times
Like all general managers, Erik Neander of the Rays, left, and Dave Dombrowski of the Red Sox, right, have until 4 p.m. Wednesday to make trades. DIRK SHADD | Times
Published Jul. 27, 2019

TORONTO — Five things we think we know about the Rays’ history and, if past is indeed prologue, future at the trade deadline, which is coming at 4 p.m. Wednesday:

1. They’re not much for buying big

Here is the list of big-league players the Rays acquired in late July deals during the six-season run from 2008-13 when they made the playoffs four times:

Chad Qualls, Ryan Roberts, Jesse Crain.

And here is who they got in the 2017 when they felt in mid-July they had a shot and got uncharacteristically aggressive:

Sergio Romo, Dan Jennings, Lucas Duda, Steve Cishek.

Bit parts. Helpful pieces. Decent pickups.

Hardly marquee names.

Related: JOHN ROMANO: What St. Petersburg should ask from the Rays

So let the rumors fly, indulge in all the speculation you want about Noah Syndergaard or Ken Giles or Hunter Pence or whomever of substantial resume that are among the dozens of players they Rays have “had internal discussions about,’’ “expressed interest in” or “inquired about,” but don’t expect to see big names across the back of Rays uniforms by the end of the week.

For one, it’s not typically how they do business, winning bidding wars, whether in terms of talent or dollars.

The Rays tend to set a price based on their perceived value of the deal on both ends and — this is hard part, as any of us who’ve bought a car or a house know — have the discipline to stick to it and walk away. Which is at least part of the reason Craig Kimbrel is saving games for the Cubs and Edwin Encarnacion hitting homers for the Yankees and the Rays are still shopping.

And that they haven’t done much yet, with prices still sky high as teams are still responding to queries on less than elite players by asking for top prospects such as Wander Franco and Brendan McKay.

For another, it’s not how the Rays like to do business, making deals when they have to versus when they want to.

Since the Stuart Sternberg regime took over in October 2005 and began the process of regularly churning the roster, the Rays generally make their biggest deals in the offseason. There are exceptions, of course. But part of their mantra of being thorough and disciplined is to not be beholden to the deadline. In short, they’d rather make no deal than a bad one.

2. They’re more into being July sellers than buyers

The Rays tend to be more aggressive in Julys when they haven’t been in contention, moving veterans, and their current and future salaries, in deals with minor-leaguers key to the returns.

That started back in the beginning in 2006, when they shipped out Aubrey Huff and Julio Lugo back and has continued through the trades of David Price in 2014, Matt Moore (plus Steve Pearce and Brandon Guyer) in 2016 and Chris Archer and several others last year, though with the twist of getting back young players ready to help immediately at the big-league level, such as All-Star Austin Meadows and Tyler Glasnow, rather than lower-level prospects.

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As much as they won’t be pressured into doing something at the deadline, they welcome other teams making bad decisions as they clock ticks and are always prepared to pounce.

David DeJesus was one of the Rays' more productive hitters in 2015 when they traded him to the Angels at the trade deadline. [Times file (2015)]
David DeJesus was one of the Rays' more productive hitters in 2015 when they traded him to the Angels at the trade deadline. [Times file (2015)]

3. Some years it’s a tough call

As crazy as it seems over a 162-game schedule, results of the next couple games could influence what the Rays do — how aggressive to be in paying for additions, deciding to stand pat or even selling off some pieces.

An example came in 2015.

They Rays were 3 ½ games and three teams away from the second wild-card spot, and 7 ½ out of first in the AL East when they traded outfielder David DeJesus to the contending Angels on July 28 for a minor-leaguer.

Three days later they were still three games back from the second wild-card when they traded reliever Kevin Jepsen for two minor-leaguers to the Twins — the team they were chasing.

That galled the players in the clubhouse, who were expecting the bosses to get them help for a late-season push and instead saw it as a lack of faith that they dealt away a couple veterans. It seems safe to assume there was a lesson learned there. Plus, it didn’t help that none of the kids they got for DeJesus and Jepsen were much.

4. It’s not always about the now

The thinking going into the deadline seems simple. The Rays have some clear needs, specifically for an experienced reliever and a proven right-handed hitter, so that should be what they’re focused on.

But because different teams have different agendas at the deadline, they also have to be open-minded and opportunistic. It’s the Rays way.

So while focused on getting into the 2019 playoffs, they are also thinking ahead. And not just in adding prospects they hope are future impact players, but also maximizing the return for players they have who might not fit.

The downside — and it’s weird to even call is that — of having the game’s best farm system, as Baseball America last week anointed them, is not having enough room on the 40-man roster for all their prospects.

And with at least a half-dozen tough calls to make in advance of the December Rule 5 draft, the Rays could use this week to get something back for some of those bubble players, such as Kean Wong or Lucius Fox.

They did that a few weeks ago in dealing Nick Solak to Texas (for reliever Peter Fairbanks). And more significantly last year in an unexpected opportunity to swap Genesis Cabrera and Justin Williams (plus Roel Ramirez) to the Cardinals and get back Tommy Pham. And they could go that route again.

The Rays acquired reliever Chad Bradford, a key member of the 2008 World Series team, in the kind of deal that can no longer be made. [Times file (2008) ]
The Rays acquired reliever Chad Bradford, a key member of the 2008 World Series team, in the kind of deal that can no longer be made. [Times file (2008) ]

5. The August days are gone

This is the first year baseball is using a hard trade deadline, with no August waiver deals. Rays officials say that isn’t a big issue and doesn’t change their thinking much since they never plan on August deals, but their trade history in their contending seasons shows otherwise.

In 2008, they made an August deal to get reliever Chad Bradford, who played a key role down the stretch. In 2009, veteran catcher Gregg Zaun (and also in dropping back in the race dumped veteran Scott Kazmir for young players). In 2011, outfielder Ben Francisco. In 2013, DeJesus.

Given the inability to make additions later, some teams are making small depth moves now, such as the Yankees recently getting speedy outfielder Terrance Gore, whom the Rays had interest in. So there could be more of those type deals in addition to substantial trades.

Related: MARTIN FENNELLY: A glimpse into the wonderful world of Wander Franco

Rays rumblings

The Yankees — not the Rays — are said to be in negotiations to face the Jays in the annual spring exhibitions in Montreal., which would ensure big crowds but seems like missed opportunity … In moving the Rays past the Padres to No. 1 in their farm system rankings, Baseball America cited their “depth of position and pitching prospects.’’ … Ex-Rays ace David Price with a shout-out to Dan Moeller’s Tropicana Field grounds crew: “It’s still my favorite mound in baseball and I’ve heard a lot of other guys really enjoy pitching in this ballpark.’’ … It’s cool that top prospect Wander Franco gets so much attention, but there are several other legit prospects on the Class A Stone Crabs squad, including pitchers Joe Ryan and Shane McClanahan, catcher Ronaldo Hernandez and outfielder Moises Gomez. … Third-base coach Rodney Linares played tourist on Thursday’s off-day, driving down to see Niagara Falls from the Canadian side. … The free e-book offered one day last week from the service: One Last Prayer for the Rays, a missing persons thriller by Wes Markin. … Also, Price on Chaim Bloom, who rose from assistant director of minor-league operations in 2008 to senior VP: “He didn’t really speak back then. I didn’t even know he could talk. I always knew he was really smart but holding a conversation with him was tough. To see his progress is really cool.’’ … There’s now a Blake Snell and Raymond dual bobblehead available at

Contact Marc Topkin at Follow @TBTimes_Rays.

Contact Marc Topkin at Follow @TBTimes_Rays


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