Tampa Bay Rays
Nothing in works, but Rays open to deal
ST. PETERSBURG - Manager Joe Maddon says Scott Kazmir could be the Rays' big stretch-run "acquisition." He means that if Kazmir continues to pitch as he did Tuesday night against the Yankees, the Rays would gain the staff ace they have lacked all season. Whether or not the enigmatic Kazmir regains his All-Star form, the Rays have enhancements coming. Akinori Iwamura and Fernando Perez could be ready within a month, and when rosters expand Sept. 1, Matt Joyce and others could be called up. That might be as close as the Rays come to muscling up for a pennant race, because as of Thursday night, the Rays had given no indication they will make a major move by today's 4 p.m. deadline for non-waiver trades.Executive vice president Andrew Friedman would not rule out something materializing, though. "The final hours before the deadline often breed creative thoughts, and we expect to be in the middle of that brainstorming," he said. "Whether anything happens, major or minor, is impossible to predict." Standing pat would be OK with Maddon, who, despite his club's streaky hitting and inconsistent starting pitching, believes he has a group that can get the job done. "When you do something like that a major trade or acquisition, the guys on your team have to know that you're better," Maddon said. "When you're going to take somebody out of the mix and bring somebody in, the guys you bring in have to be noticeably better. "So with us, I'm sure if we have that opportunity, Andrew will go ahead and do it. But if it doesn't happen, you catch the ball on defense, and you get a little more consistent pitching out of our starters." It's old news that the Rays talked to Toronto about All-Star starting pitcher Roy Halladay and to Cleveland about slugging catcher Victor Martinez, each of whom has been pursued by division rival Boston. A deal for either seemed unlikely, as Halladay would likely cost too much, and Martinez is not a particularly good defensive catcher. There has been speculation that the Rays could move Kazmir, an All-Star in 2006 and 2008 and the AL strikeout king in 2007, but given his diminished value (he is 5-6 with a 6.22 ERA), that also seems unlikely. Standing pat at the trade deadline last year worked out well enough for the Rays, who passed on a trade for outfielder Jason Bay when the Pirates reportedly asked for then-Triple-A pitcher Jeff Niemann and shortstop Reid Brignac. Bay went to the rival Red Sox, whom the Rays beat for the AL East title and in the American League Championship Series. Bay has had a stellar season, but Niemann has been one of the league's biggest surprises with a staff-best 9-5 record this year. Maddon says he looks onto the field and sees one of the best center fielders in the game in B.J. Upton, the All-Star Game MVP in left fielder Carl Crawford and All-Stars at third base (Evan Longoria), shortstop (Jason Bartlett), second base (Ben Zobrist) and first base (Carlos Pena). While designated hitter Pat Burrell and catcher Dioner Navarro have struggled, and others have been streaky, the odds are stacked against a quick fix. "I think within the clubhouse, we're fairly comfortable with what we have here," Longoria said. "Going off last year, we understand we can do it with the guys we have in here." Zobrist echoed that sentiment. "We don't anticipate some major changes in here," he said. "If anything does happen, I know this group is able to be flexible. But I know that our front office and the coaching staff and everybody is comfortable with the group we have if we don't do anything."
Reporter Tony Fabrizio can be reached at (813) 259-7994.