No big moves, but Rays optimistic going forward
President of baseball ops Silverman likes makeup of club, looking forward to returns of Jennings, Smyly
BOSTON -- No Major League talent joined the Rays by the time the non-waiver Trade Deadline passed at 4 p.m. ET on Friday.
The final tally saw the Rays ship David DeJesus to the Angels for Minor League pitcher Eduar Lopez on Tuesday before sending Kevin Jepsen to the Twins for Minor League right-handers Alexis Tapia and Chih-Wei Hu on Friday.
Nevertheless, optimism abounds.
"The way we see it, three games out of the Wild Card today, if we play to our potential, we're going to be in it in September and have a chance at the postseason," said Rays president of baseball operations Matt Silverman.
Most Rays fans hoped the team would have found a way to bring in a bat or two to punch up the lineup. The fact that it did not happen does not mean the Rays did not try, though.
"There were possibilities," Silverman said. "And we certainly had conversations about adding."
Just because the Trade Deadline has passed, it does not necessarily mean the Rays will be prevented from bringing in more offense. Going forward, the only obstacle to potential deals getting done is that players must first clear waivers before they can be traded.
"Typically we've been better at acquiring talent in August than in July, it just seems to line up better that way," Silverman said. "We're going to continue to be active in conversations through the waiver process."
Silverman characterized this year's Trade Deadline as "very interesting. ... And it seemed like it was a seller's market. And even with that dynamic, we chose to keep the club primarily intact."
Despite a recent downturn in fortunes that has turned the Rays into a .500, middle-of-the-pack team, they are still very much in the Wild Card race -- as well as one Yankees tailspin from being back in the American League East race.
Now they are banking on the outfielder Desmond Jennings and left-hander Drew Smyly returning from the disabled list to give the team a boast.
Jennings played in just 18 games before going on the DL on May 3 with left knee bursitis, which eventually mandated a cleanup surgery. When he's healthy and playing well, Jennings can be an offensive force. He is expected to return by mid-August.
Smyly (torn left labrum) went on the DL on May 9. The southpaw has made one rehab start in his pursuit to return to the Rays' rotation. He was expected to throw four innings and approximately 60 pitches on Friday night. He too is expected to return by mid-August and bolster an already-strong rotation led by Chris Archer.
Thus, while the Rays were not buyers and modest sellers at the Trade Deadline, few teams acquired talent the likes of Jennings and Smyly.
"We believe in the performance of the club," Silverman said. "We believe in our ability. And looking ahead and getting healthier with the addition of Smyly and Jennings, we're going to be an even more formidable club heading into the final month of the season."
Jepsen going to the Twins seemed odd on the surface since they are one of the teams the Rays are competing with for a Wild Card spot. Silverman allowed that such a deal might look strange, but he explained how the climate facilitated unconventional moves.
"The Wild Card is pretty jumbled right now," Silverman said. "We had conversations with teams who are ahead of us in the standings and below us in the standings. Whether it was to add or subtract, everyone was looking for different ways to help their club.
"We have many head-to-head games with the teams that are in front of us, which is a great opportunity to catch them and to pass them. But the dynamic was odd, not just with the Twins, but with a lot of teams. So jumbled together and having conversations about different trades."
Silverman conceded that the losses of DeJesus and Jepsen "certainly hurt."
"But we believe internally we have the players -- especially in Smyly and Jennings coming back -- to be able to continue a high level of play," Silverman said. "Play better than what we have thus far and stay in the race. If we didn't feel that way, it might have been a different Trade Deadline for us."