Tampa Bay Rays Need to Shift from Buyer to Seller at the Trade Deadline

Jim FolsomContributorJuly 19, 2011

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - JULY 16:  Outfielder B.J. Upton #2 of the Tampa Bay Rays catches a fly ball against the Boston Red Sox during the game at Tropicana Field on July 16, 2011 in St. Petersburg, Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
J. Meric/Getty Images

It is time to give up on the 2011 season for the Rays. I know it's early. I know there is still a lot of baseball left to be played. Yeah, I get it.

I also get that the Rays just cannot hang with the Red Sox or the Yankees this year. They don't have the ponies. They also don't have the money. So what do they do from here? Stock up. Trade BJ Upton now while he has some value. Don't wait until he becomes a strike out waiting to happen again. Getting rid of Matt Garza turned out to be a genius move. So did trading once promising Scott Kazmir. Pull the trigger on Upton. Do it now.

There is no reason not to. This season is over. The Rays had a big stretch of games heading into and coming out of the All Star Break. They were headed to Minnesota, where they trashed the Twins earlier in the season, with their two All Star pitchers going in David Price and James Shields. They dropped both games. After salvaging the third game they headed to new York for four.

They win the first game and the second one gets rained out. So they have Price and Shields going for the last two games. A split would be great. Going into the break after taking two of three from the Yanks would show some signs of life. But Price got hammered on the day Derek Jeter got his 3000th hit. The last hit of his five that day was a game winner.

The next day Shields hooked up with CC Sabathia in a pitcher's duel. Neither man flinched until Shields gave up the only run of the game trying to pick off a runner...on third...with two outs. He threw wildly and the only run of the game waltzed in.

Not a good way to end the first half.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JULY 6: Joe Maddon #70 of the Tampa Bay Rays brings relief pitcher J.P. Howell #74 of the Tampa Bay Rays into the game against the Minnesota Twins in the seventh inning on July 6, 2011 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Rays
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

The second half started with the Rays at home for three against division leading Boston. After winning the first game with Price on the mound again, Shields proceeded to get bombed on Saturday. The Rays staked him to a 3-0 lead. He quickly found himself down 6-3. From there things have gotten worse.

The Rays battled the Sox in an epic 16 inning ESPN Sunday Night Game only to lose 1-0 on a two out run scoring single from Dustin Pedroia. Despite a multitude of well-hit balls, the Rays could only watch as the Sox outfielders snared each at the warning track.

Then the Yankees came in for four games starting the next night. The Rays bolted out to a 4-1 lead only to watch the bullpen give it away. The winning run scored on a walk. Walks have been killing the Rays pen all year. They may have found a fitting way to turn this season's focus around.

The Rays can forget about the playoffs. It is time to address the teams' needs going into next year. One of these is getting Evan Longoria healthy. It looks like rest will be the only thing that helps him now. So perhaps another infielder to let him rest whenever possible.

Also, the Rays need relievers. Preferably ones that can get the ball over the plate. And, of course, they need some bats. They are downright anemic on offense with Longoria hurting. Matt Joyce and Casey Kotchman have cooled off from their hot starts, and now there is nobody to pick up the slack.

Johnny Damon and Ben Zobrist do their best, but they get no help. On Sunday they played for 16 innings and got four hits. Four hits? That's it? I can see not being able to hit Josh Beckett. He's a monster. But he only went eight innings. What about the other eight? Get some guys who can put the stick on the ball, please.

Don't hesitate. Do it now. This season is done. There is no need to pretend you can still make a run. The teams in front of you are too good. It's time to re-tool.