With 30 major league general managers in the process of leaving New York after the All-Star break, the town is abuzz about clandestine gatherings for unprecedented, behind-the-scenes trade talks -- no small thanks to upstart Tampa Bay Rays operations chief Andrew Friedman and his top executive Gerry Hunsicker.
Fresh off a seven game losing streak and what may be a precipitous fall from first place, Friedman has an urgent need for a right-handed bat, especially with outfielders Jonny Gomes underperforming and Rocco Baldelli still quesionable after a series of injuries and illnesses.
Friedman must be considered a leading contender for the services of Astros outfielder Carlos Lee, and Pirates outfielders Jason Bay and Xavier Nady, not only because of Friedman's dire need for a more balanced offense but because more than any other rival he has stockpiled enough high draft picks which whom to barter.
In addition to Lee, Bay and Nady, switch-hitting Rangers All Star Milton Bradley might be acceptable, as Bradley is strongest from the right side of the plate.
Among Friedman's potential bargaining chips are coveted pitchers David Price and Jeff Niemann, both first rounders; Chris Mason, a second-rounder; and Wade Davis, a third rounder, all of whom at one time or another have been variously described as off limits or too cherished. However, all bets are off now that the Rays have suddenly emerged as serious contenders for a playoff berth.
All things considered, the Rays hardly can be expected to come away empty-handed after the July 31 trading deadline.