The Rays are five games out in the wild card and six out in the AL East. With less than three weeks remaining until the trade deadline, they're currently sitting on the uncomfortable borderline of contention.
The Rays rank eighth among the 14 AL teams with 4.22 runs scored per game. They're eleventh in OBP and seventh in SLG. Evan Longoria missed most of April with an oblique strain, so just having him for the entire second half would provide a boost. On the flip side, Matt Joyce may be unable to reproduce his strong first half. How might the Rays go about improving the offense?
- Catcher: John Jaso and Kelly Shoppach have struggled offensively. Some names on which the Rays could kick the tires: Ramon Hernandez, Chris Iannetta, Ryan Doumit (when healthy), Ronny Paulino, and Geovany Soto.
- Shortstop: Out of Reid Brignac, Elliot Johnson, and Sean Rodriguez, Rodriguez has the most useful bat. The Rays might not be able to beat his .223/.308/.408 line on the trade market, with Jose Reyes, J.J. Hardy, and Hanley Ramirez unlikely to be dealt. Rafael Furcal could be worth a look, if the Dodgers pick up most of the tab.
- Left field: As I mentioned today, possible reasonably-priced trade candidates include Josh Willingham, Ryan Ludwick, David DeJesus, and Luke Scott (when healthy). Desmond Jennings and Brandon Guyer could be considerations from the Rays' Triple-A team.
By ERA, the Rays' starting pitching ranks fourth in the AL at 3.57. Wade Davis is battling a minor injury, but the team has good depth. Alex Cobb is the sixth man, and the Rays have one of the game's top pitching prospects in Matt Moore at Double-A.
The Rays' bullpen could use reinforcements; it'd be interesting to see Moore enter the picture as a September call-up. The Blue Jays, Orioles, Padres, Athletics, and Marlins might be selling some decent relievers this month.
Who might the Rays use for trade bait? Moore and Jennings are surely off-limits, and I'd be surprised to see them trade any of their top 15 prospects. Among those with big league track records, Upton could be dealt if the Rays are comfortable replacing him with Jennings and finding additional outfield help, a tough move for a contender to make. Upton will still have trade value after the season, as he'll probably earn less than $8MM next year. Andy Sonnanstine and Jeff Niemann could have value to teams seeking affordable back-end starters. We've seen names like Johnny Damon, Kyle Farnsworth, and Juan Cruz surface as trade candidates, which I'll find more likely if the Rays are further from contending in a few weeks.