Rays in solid position to buy at Deadline
ST. PETERSBURG -- Major League Baseball's July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline is looming, and unlike last season, the Rays look like buyers rather than sellers.
Back-end bullpen help, a left-handed specialist and a bat off the bench are needs. But will the team simply answer those needs from within the organization? Or will they shop outside the organization?
Ryne Stanek has been lights-out since Tampa Bay optioned him back to Triple-A Durham on June 11. And there's always the chance that Brent Honeywell, the organization's No. 2 prospect according to MLBPipeline.com, could get the call. As for the bat, Colby Rasmus returning to the team could have a big impact -- as a starter or off the bench.
The chances of them pulling a blockbuster deal seem remote based on the history of the franchise. But there's a first time for everything.
Dealing with the White Sox for Player Page for David Robertson would be huge. The right-hander could share closing duties and pitch high-leverage innings. The right-hander would no doubt be a costly option. But acquiring a player of Robertson's talents could be the difference between making the postseason or not.
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The Rays normally travel the fiscally prudent route, but they have shown a willingness in the past to at least consider taking on a financial commitment if they are in contention.
Any moves Tampa Bay makes could be significant given how closely matched teams in the American League East appear this season.
The Rays have some talent at the Triple-A and Double-A levels that could be difference-makers for sealing a deal with a non-contender. The team appears to be particularly deep at shortstop -- a position that is always coveted.
What are they playing for?
Since the Rays have not been in contention since the 2013 season, you can bet the organization wants to reach the postseason and be competitive enough to have a chance to advance. With the number of veterans they have on their roster, it's not a stretch to think they will continue to make noise until the end of the season.
The road ahead
After the All-Star break, the rubber quickly meets the road when they play the Angels and the Athletics at Anaheim and Oakland. Both teams have losing records, but trips to the West Coast are always dangerous. Tampa Bay finishes July with a four-game series in New York against the Yankees before heading to Houston to start a four-game series against the Astros. The Rays end August with a potentially tough road trip to St. Louis and then to Kansas City to play the Royals. In September, they play five games against the White Sox, but the rest of the month, they're matched against contenders.
Alex Colome. The closer has had a couple of high-wire games in the first half. If Tampa Bay has a lead heading into the ninth inning, the club needs to have a pitcher at the back end of the bullpen it can depend on. Colome must get the job done.
Prospects to watch
Jaime Schultz has battled a groin problem all season. If the right-hander can somehow make a return by late August or early September, the Rays will have an explosive bullpen option. His addition would strengthen the relief corps considerably.