Should the Rays Have Made A Move?

10 weeks. 25% of a “normal” pregnancy. Not even a whole college semester. It’s not really that much time and as a result it’s tough for a GM to pull a trigger on a player who could bolt at season’s end and cost them a top prospect. However, it could be that player who puts a team over the top and possibly wins it all. 
The trade deadline has come and gone and what do the Rays have to show for it? Chad Qualls and his $1.6 million price tag. I won’t go into Qualls’ season so far this year; let’s just say that the Rays emphasized his past accomplishments after acquiring him so it’s easy to say that he’s hasn’t been good. Many will look and say this was an OK deal considering Grant Balfour just landed on the DL but they aren’t the same pitcher. I won’t even address the foolishness of Balfour’s injury being the result of “horseplay” between him and his pitching coach which has him on the DL for the next 4-6 weeks.
So why didn’t the Rays do anything? Their spin is the market was asking too much in return for what they were selling. They’ve alluded to the fact that many of the big bats stayed put as a result, which may be true. However, the flip side is they would have been that much better off making a deal since the other contenders didn’t. 
I feel they still should have done something – specifically gotten Adam Dunn or Luke Scott. Assess who has the least upside of prospects in your organization and let them go. That could be Reid Brignac, Wade Davis, Jeremy Hellickson, Desmond Jennings or Matthew Moore. Of those five players, they should have considered parting ways with Brignac, Moore and Davis in that exact order. I guarantee Jennings and Hellickson were untouchable.  Brignac is a nice player but I don’t see any All-Star awards in his future. Flipping him to the Nats for Dunn would have looked good for both teams. The Nats would have a nice middle infield duo in Ian Desmond and Brignac for years to come. Moore has been electric over his last two starts (14 innings, 20:2 K:BB ratio at High-A Charlotte) but struggled initially this season and is likely at least two years away from the majors. Davis has been better as of late but has gone through the rookie bumps and probably won’t be a starter if the team gets into the postseason. Hellickson would be an ample replacement for him. I’d have a hard time believing the Nats would have turned down an offer of Brignac or Moore with a low-level prospect for Dunn. Same goes for the Orioles and an offer for Luke Scott, which is a team that basically needs everything. 
Backers of the stand-pat move will point to next season and the future, when the Rays lineup will be revamped. Carl Crawford is gone as will Carlos Pena and Rafael Soriano (most likely). Even without using the aforementioned “trade bait” players, you have Desmond Jennings to slide into Crawford’s spot, Dan Johnson/Leslie Anderson to fill in for Pena and Joaquin Benoit to take the ninth inning role.  Quick Johnson note, he’s hitting .303 with 30 home runs, 90 RBI with a 71:74 K:BB ratio at Triple-A right now. They’re going to be just fine the next few seasons. 
So why didn’t the Rays make a move? Again, many will say the asking price was too high and they shouldn’t mortgage the future for 10 weeks. I think a few other factors played into this. First is Matt Joyce. He’s finally heated up, hitting three home runs in the last week, and Saturday’s night shot was a monster blast. Even more encouraging was that it was a breaking pitch from Javier Vazquez that only the lighting in Tropicana Field prevented it being a scoreboard shot. He should be the everyday guy in right field, although they’ll stubbornly run Gabe Kapler out there against lefties every so often. By the way, when Willy Aybar got a pinch-hit bloop single off Rivera with two outs in the ninth last night, wouldn’t it be nice to see Jennings pinch-run for Aybar so he’d have a shot at scoring on a double? Back to why there wasn’t a move. The Rays didn’t know they were going to lose and could have got a share of first place with a win and put more ground between them and the Red Sox. I wonder had the BoSox made a move or been closer than 5.5 games back, might the Rays have felt more pressure to make their own? Then again, the Sox just got back Josh Beckett and Dustin Pedroia is set to come off the DL soon; better days are ahead for them.
Jeremy Hellickson is finally coming up to make a spot-start on Monday, although it’s just a one-time deal to give the regular five starters an extra day of rest. Rays fans can only hope that this leads to a DFA for Lance Cormier or Andy Sonnanstine and that Hellickson never sees Durham again. Jennings and Johnson will be up September 1st at the latest even though both are better than players currently getting at-bats.  Specifically, when you run Willy Aybar out there as your left-handed DH, Scott and Dunn look that much better.   
It’s hypocritical of me to criticize the same management that didn’t make a move and give them credit for building an affordable contender for future years. I don’t really know what the asking price was and for who. Some type of deal could still be had even though the non-waiver deadline has passed. Will the Rays regret not pulling the trigger on a Dunn or Scott deal? Maybe. We’ll see over the next 10 weeks, although anything short of a Championship this year will be considered a failure. 


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