The Tampa Bay Rays are at an important crossroads. Coming off disappointing series losses in Kansas City and Baltimore, they've been leapfrogged in the wild card standings by the Toronto Blue Jays and now hold the final playoff seed in the AL. On top of that, it was just announced that Kevin Kiermaier and Mike Zunino will miss the rest of the season with injuries. The injury bug they've been grappling with all season is not going away, and it's far from a guarantee that they will maintain their playoff position.
Luckily, the trade deadline is approaching and they have a golden opportunity to restock the numerous empty slots in the clubhouse. In the past, the Rays have taken a "hybrid" approach to the trade deadline, where they act as both a buyer and a seller, even when they're competing. Take 2021, for example: they sent two quality prospects to acquire Nelson Cruz and took a flyer on Jordan Luplow, but also shipped established, big-league pitchers Rich Hill and Diego Castillo to other fellow contenders.
Another instance is a trade they pulled off with their cross-state counterparts in 2019. They acquired closer Nick Anderson from Miami, and to get him, they sent outfield prospect Jesus Sanchez, who eventually became the Marlins' starting center fielder. However, they also included Ryne Stanek in the deal, who was a key part of their bullpen at the time.
Their financial situation has made this hybrid approach a common course of action in prior deadlines, and this year appears to be no different. The Rays have not entered a trade deadline this far out of first place in their division since 2018, so playing both sides in the event that they don't make the postseason has more logical merit than ever. Here are 3 mock trades that the Tampa Bay Rays could consider in 2022 that fit the "hybrid" criteria.