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Contention status to define Rays' Deadline

Roster could be augmented if TB is in playoff hunt, but trade bait abounds if fortunes sour
March 26, 2017

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Major League Baseball's July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline means one of two scenarios for each team: You're either a buyer or a seller.What will the Rays be in 2017?In order for the Rays to be in the preferred "buyer" category, they must be in contention. And

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Major League Baseball's July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline means one of two scenarios for each team: You're either a buyer or a seller.
What will the Rays be in 2017?
In order for the Rays to be in the preferred "buyer" category, they must be in contention. And to be in contention, the team's highly touted starting staff, led by Chris Archer, must live up to its billing, pitching the team deep into the game so manager Kevin Cash can use his bullpen more efficiently.
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The Rays' defense must show improvement in order to assist the pitching. Offensively, the Rays would like to see a carryover from 2016 where power is concerned, but they're hoping for better at-bats.

If the Rays arrive to the Trade Deadline looking like contenders, they would likely take a similar approach to what they've done in past. That would mean trading for pieces that could help augment a late-season run, but not necessarily pieces that would carry such a run.
Should the Rays reach the Trade Deadline looking like non-contenders, there will be a lot of candidates to be shipped elsewhere.
Depending on the needs of other teams, and what those teams would be willing to part with, the likes of Archer, Jake Odorizzi and Alex Cobb would likely become available, though at a high cost.

If other teams need offense, the Rays should have plenty to offer in that regard, too: Colby Rasmus, Derek Norris, Logan Morrison, Rickie Weeks Jr., Brad Miller and perhaps even Evan Longoria.
It's tough to say what kind of team the Rays will have this year. Despite the injuries, they don't seem to have a lot of holes to fill, so that could bode well for a team that is a serious contender. Or it could be more of the same for the team that won just 68 games in 2016. If that's the case, chances are Rays fans will be seeing a lot of new faces in the second half of the season, and a lot of familiar faces playing for other teams.

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2005.