The Tampa Bay Rays are in a unique position in baseball. They can trade pitching and still have a solid team. And if they look at the most recent World Series champions, they can be a legit pennant contender and win their elusive title.
Using the San Francisco Giants and the St. Louis Cardinals as a reference, there is no need to fill each position with an All-Star to win the World Series. Those teams had a few stars and many role players who got hot at the right time.
The key is to make sure each position has a good player, not an elite one.
Players like Allen Craig, Ryan Theriot, Brandon Belt and Edgar Renteria have been starters and valuable contributors to recent World Series wins. None of those players were considered to be great when the postseason began yet were fitted for rings when it was over.
The key to a title in this day and age is pitching depth. The Rays have already done the hard part of putting together a winner. They can let Rafael Soriano walk and deal Matt Garza and still have an outrageously deep staff and a 90-win season.
With the New York Yankees long in the tooth, the Boston Red Sox in disarray, the Baltimore Orioles likely to take a step back and the Toronto Blue Jays gambling on a lot of injury-risk players, this division could be theirs for the taking.
Evan Longoria is the centerpiece of the lineup, but they need to give the lineup some depth. The temptation of course would be to trade a pitcher for a star hitter.
But with so many teams in need of pitching, the Rays are better off trying to get two good or even serviceable players for each pitcher dealt. James Shields and Wade Davis would be attractive contenders.
If dealt correctly, they may walk away with three or four decent hitters and still have Cy Young winner David Price leading a rotation with Matt Moore, Jeremy Hellickson and Alex Cobb backing him up.
The Rays should err on the side of quantity in the lineup. The more holes they fill adequately, the better chance they have to translate their pitching depth into a long October trip.