ST. PETERSBURG - The Midsummer Classic will be played Tuesday in New York, which means the baseball season is headed toward the always interesting non-waiver trade deadline, where some teams buy, some sell and some stand pat. The Rays, aside from being mentioned in nearly every trade rumor, normally remain inactive during this period. It's hard to imagine anything will change before the July 31 deadline. "I like what we have now," manager Joe Maddon said. "With everybody staying well I don't anticipate us doing anything." For good reason, too.
The Rays reached the All-Star break with one of their best squads in the past six seasons. Their win total through 90 games - 50 - was the third-most in team history behind the division-winning 2008 and 2010 teams. They have one All-Star pitcher in Matt Moore, and another who is pitching like an All-Star in David Price. Jeremy Hellickson is back to being Jeremy Hellickson, and Chris Archer has made big strides since joining the team in June. The bullpen and defense are up to the standards everyone expects from the Rays bullpen and defense. The offense is better than expected. The Rays headed into the past two non-waiver trade deadlines needing some help, mostly offensive. They had some pieces to deal, too, in James Shields and B.J. Upton. Executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman kept the team together in 2011 and 2012. It worked in 2011 when the Rays rallied in September for the American League wild card. It didn't work last season. But by not dealing Shields last July, Friedman was able to deal him in December for a quartet of prospects that included right fielder Wil Myers. Myers, who made his major-league debut June 18, can be viewed as the bat the Rays needed. Notice how the lineup has become more static since Myers arrived. Having Price back and having him return to his 2012 American League Cy Young Award-winning form is like adding another pitcher. The Rays hope to get the same boost when Alex Cobb returns. "It seems like everybody's getting back in order," Maddon said. "The pitching is definitely pitching like we thought it would. The defense is probably even better than we thought it was going to be. Offensively, same thing, probably a little better than we thought it would be. Just keeping everybody well right now and getting Cobber back at some point, that could definitely make it interesting." It would help if Matt Joyce and Kelly Johnson returned to their early season forms. Health, of course, will always be a factor. "It's all in there, we just got to get them all going again," Maddon said. "Some of the guys who started off well backed off a little bit. We just have to get them going again." Given the injuries to Price, Cobb, Jeff Niemann and Brandon Gomes, Evan Longoria's foot woes, Price's poor start and the early season meltdowns by Hellickson and Fernando Rodney, the Rays are fortunate to be where they are in the standings heading into the break. "Just some missed opportunities early that would really have us in good shape right now," Maddon said. "Games that we normally had won in the past, we had games in tow and we had the right people in and it did not want to work out. That's the part that bothers me, even though we're doing relatively well right now, that we've missed those opportunities. We'll see by the end of the season if we can make that up." If they can, it will most likely be with the same cast that brought them this far. [email protected] (813) 259-7227 Twitter: @RMooneyTBO