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Rays mulling moves as Trade Deadline nears

AHA View Full Game Coverage HEIM -- Andrew Friedman still can't say definitively if the Rays are going to be buyers, sellers, or remain pat as Tuesday's Trade Deadline approaches.

Countless rumors are floating around about Rays players heading elsewhere. And Friedman won't deny that conversations indeed are taking place, but the Rays executive vice president of baseball operations just doesn't know if those conversations are going anywhere.

"It's always a tough thing to handicap [whether any trades will take place]. [We're] having a lot of different conversations on a lot of different fronts to see if there's something that lines up and makes a lot of sense for us," Friedman said. "And if something does, we're going to be very aggressive to act. We're not afraid to make a bold move. But short of that happening, we feel like over these next two months, if we play like we did over the first five, six weeks, that we've got a chance to do some really special things."

Friedman noted that the organization has always approached the Trade Deadline with "the mindset of being open-minded and seeing if we can line up with teams on a deal that makes sense."

"We try as hard as we can before the season starts to put ourselves in a position to not need to do anything in July, because of the premium that's involved," Friedman said. "There are a lot of tricky variables, this year with our injuries and some of our lack of performance with guys that we expected good things from.

"So we still have really high expectations for this team and what they're capable of. And the team is set up in such a way that assuming we get [Evan] Longoria and [Luke] Scott back soon, it's tough to add on the offensive side."

Nevertheless, the Rays remain in the hunt for postseason play.

"And that's with not playing well," Friedman said. "Going into the season, we thought we had a chance to have the best team that we've ever had here. And at the end of April we felt the same way. So obviously more recently, we haven't played extremely well.

"And so, it just depends on your mindset and approach. Do you bet on a group of guys with a track record, who have done it in the past, that have had an off eight weeks and that the next eight weeks will be extremely positive? Or do you think that that's who this team is."

The Rays did address the offense this week by acquiring Ryan Roberts from the Diamondbacks for a Minor Leaguer. They also designated for assignment veteran slugger Hideki Matsui, who has not resembled the feared slugger of the past.

Rumors of pitcher James Shields being traded have been the most prominent to date.

Initially, those rumors had Shields and Ben Zobrist going to the Angels for top pitching prospect Garrett Richards and second baseman Howie Kendrick. When told about that rumor last Saturday, Rays manager Joe Maddon allowed that he and Friedman enjoyed a good "guffaw" at that report. However, another possibility involving the Angels appeared to be more legitimate.

That possibility had Shields going to the Angels for catcher Hank Conger, center fielder Peter Bourjos and right-hander Ervin Santana.

Catching has been a weak position for the Rays and Conger has shown some potential at the position. Bourjos would have been a nice fit to replace B.J. Upton in center field next season. But that rumor, like the others, fizzled once it was announced that the Angels had addressed their pitching needs by acquiring Zack Greinke from the Brewers.

Heading into the weekend, Shields' stock still remains higher than ever -- at least where the rumor mill is concerned. Other teams said to be interested in Shields include the Rangers, Cardinals, Dodgers and Braves.

Based on the way the Rays have done business in the past, it's safe to assume that Friedman won't make any deals for any of the organization's coveted starting pitching, unless the offer is simply way too good to refuse.

Part of this logic is due to the fact the Rays have played poorly, but haven't dropped out of sight.

"We feel strongly that we're capable of playing a lot better baseball and to still be in it where we are after playing so poorly over the last eight weeks, actually gives us optimism instead of pessimism for this group," Friedman said.

So where does that leave the Rays? Will they be players before Tuesday's deadline passes?

"I don't know, that's tough to answer," Friedman said. "I think my answer vacillates every 45 minutes to an hour, with so many different things going and ideas and conversations. It's just tough to say whether there's going to be that overlap.

"But we will not be afraid to do something gold if we feel like it's within the organization's best interest. But I think if I have to give an answer at this minute, I'd say check back in hour."

Tampa Bay Rays, Evan Longoria, Ryan Roberts, James Shields, Ben Zobrist