ST. PETERSBURG If the various and sundry reports that have circulated through cyberspace for the past week or so are to be believed, the Tampa Bay Rays checked in on just about every big-name player thought to be available before baseball's non-waiver trade deadline.
But when that deadline came and went at 4 p.m. today, their roster looked just as it had before the magic hour. Which is exactly the route the Rays had indicated they would go all along.
"In the end, after hour upon hour of internal and external conversations, we just ultimately didn't find a fit," said Rays executive vice president Andrew Friedman.
"We had a lot of different conversations. In fact, we got fairly close on something today, late in the day, and ultimately we didn't feel like it was something that made sense."
Reports had connected the Rays with everyone from Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay (who, after weeks of trade-related hype, stayed put in Toronto) to Indians left-hander Cliff Lee (nabbed earlier this week by the Phillies) and Cleveland catcher Victor Martinez (acquired today by the Red Sox).
With plenty of talent in their farm system, the Rays undoubtedly had the capital to mount a serious discussion with any team about any player deemed available, but their lack of payroll flexibility didn't help matters and they ultimately decided to hang on to their top prospects in a bid to maintain their young core for the coming seasons.
As they continue their bid to close the gap on the Yankees and Red Sox and return to the playoffs, the Rays will have to lean on players already in-house who have underperformed so far - Pat Burrell, Scott Kazmir, David Price, Dioner Navarro - to spark the kind of sustained run that has been absent all season.
"We definitely have the folks in-house that are very capable of making up the ground on both the Red Sox and the Yankees, so I'm comfortable with [not making a move]," said Manager Joe Maddon. "And I really mean that."
The Rays' unwillingness or inability to make a deal by today isn't necessarily a death knell to their postseason chances. They stood pat at the deadline last season, missing out on acquiring Jason Bay from the Pirates and watching the outfielder go to the Red Sox at the 11th hour.
And the opportunity to supplement their roster remains through the next month. Players acquired by the end of August are eligible for the postseason, and the Rays acquired reliever Chad Bradford and catcher Michel Hernandez in August last season. The catch is players have to clear waivers before they can be traded, and that's no sure thing.