As the trade deadline approached, we kept hearing about how the Rays were comfortable with the players they had and didn’t expect to do anything at the trade deadline. Once again, Rays fans prepared for a monotonous deadline, like they have had every season since the Rays began contending in 2008. This year, though, was different. The Rays acquired right-hander Jesse Crain from the Chicago White Sox on July 29th and went right down to the wire discussing deals on deadline day even thogh nothing else came to fruition. Why was 2013 the year that the Rays finally halted their streak of doing almost nothing and made things happen as the deadline approached?
The Rays kept saying that they didn’t need to make any moves, but that could have just a smoke-screen or a bargaining strategy. How often do general managers say one thing and then do the exact opposite? But the real answer could be much more simple: the Rays didn’t need to make any moves, but if the right deal came along they would take it. Previous Rays teams had their deficiencies, and the Rays must have considered making deals only to realize that the cost outweighed the benefit. For a Rays team that maintains a low payroll, keeping their top prospects is critical because they have the ability to become the cheap, controllable role players stars that they need to succeed season after season. The Rays can’t afford to be trading those players away just to get better for two months of one season, and with the top prospects off the table, it is hard to make deals. The Rays would be zoning in on one or two positions, but the likelihood of something falling their way was not high. This season, though, without a clear need to address, the Rays could just sit back, see who was available, and take whatever bargain deal came about. The Rays didn’t desperately need a late-inning reliever, but when they saw they could acquire Crain for future considerations, that was too good to pass up and they made the deal.
You can think of what happens at the deadline like a draft. In any sport’s draft, if you’re focusing on one position, the bigger names may be gone by the time you pick, and if you’re committed to selected a player at that particular position, you may very well be selecting a player inferior to other players still available. When you have the flexibility to select simply the best player available, though, you can be confident that you’re getting a good value and not have to worry about what position he plays. Andrew Friedman and the Rays didn’t have to look for anything specific and simply waited for the perfect deal to come along. In the Crain trade, they found exactly what they were looking for. And in regards to the rumored trades for Mike Morse and David DeJesus, the Rays were able to negotiate to see whether they could acquire them but could do so not feeling any pressure to make a deal. This year, the Rays were in a position of power at the deadline and weren’t forced to do anything. However, it afforded them the opportunity to simply look for a favorable deal wherever they could find one, and the result was quite possibly their biggest deadline deal as a buyer ever in Crain and some excitement as the clock counted down to 4:00 PM on Wednesday in their other talks.