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Rays appear strong as Trade Deadline nears

Pitching, everyday lineup comprise one of best squads in team history

NEW YORK -- In deference to years past, the Rays aren't in the middle of trade discussions as the Major League Baseball's June 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline approaches.

Recent years have seen discussions come about regarding the likes of players such as James Shields and B.J. Upton, only to see the Deadline pass with little action. The Rays have always maintained that they do not feel compelled to make moves before or after the Deadline as their office is open year round when it comes to finding ways to improve their team.

Normally, the Rays are cast as either buyers or sellers, but the way this year's team is built, there is little likelihood that anything will happen.

"We have nothing going on right now as far as I know," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "We feel like we're covered here at the Major League level, and we feel like we have some nice pieces in the Minor Leagues, too."

Earlier, Andrew Friedman, Rays executive vice president of baseball operations, allowed that he will have discussions with other teams. But the question comes down to this: What area do the Rays need to bolster in order to improve the team?

Hard to answer that one, isn't it?

For the first time in forever, the Rays have an offense that can score a lot of runs via their "swarming" style. And with the addition of Wil Myers, who became the team's everyday right fielder in June, the Rays are as close to an everyday lineup as they have been any time in their history. Yunel Escobar's arrival to play shortstop has improved the overall infield defense, as has the arrival of first baseman James Loney and a healthy Evan Longoria.

In addition, designated hitter Luke Scott is the healthier than he has been than at any point during his two years with the team. That has left plenty of capable players sitting on the bench looking for playing time.

Meanwhile, the starting pitching has charged to the forefront to fulfill the success forecast for them, with David Price leading the charge. The evidence is strong. In the last 26 games (through Sunday) started by Price, Matt Moore, Jeremy Hellickson, and Chris Archer, the Rays are 24-2.

Given the way the Rays do business, Price's name would normally be floated in the rumor mix based on the stage he is at in his career, but based on the fact that he just returned from a stint on the disabled list, coupled with the fact the Rays are the hottest team in baseball, the Rays aren't likely to have any serious discussions about his availability during the season.

The Rays bullpen is also a solid bunch that appears well fortified for a postseason run with closer Fernando Rodney looking more like the Rodney of 2012 and Joel Peralta and Jake McGee setting him up.

At this juncture, Tampa Bay appears to have one of its best squads, if not the best, in team history. At the very least, this year's team can be compared to those of 2008 and '10, when the Rays won American League East Division titles.

"Yes, this is a really good team," Maddon said. "I think 2010 was pretty solid, too. In 2008, we went through a lot of injuries, when Willy Aybar stepped up when Carl [Crawford] got hurt and Longo got hurt. And some of the guys really stepped into those roles. But this team is right there with those teams."

Rumors with "Rays" in them simply do not exist this season. So unless an unforeseen injury or circumstance takes place before Wednesday's 4 p.m. ET Deadline, don't expect the Rays to be active.

"This year, fortunately the health has held up, so as long as the health holds up, we should be OK," Maddon said.

The Rays manager knocked on his desk and smiled. Clearly he likes the team he has.

Bill Chastain is a reporter for

Tampa Bay Rays, Yunel Escobar, Evan Longoria, Jake McGee, Wil Myers, David Price, Fernando Rodney