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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. 

Comments

By: Mark Stopa
On: 8/1/2010 10:25:00 AM
For me, the issue with the Rays is this. If you're keeping Crawford, Pena, and Soriano, who are undoubtedly leaving after the season, then you're saying "I'm playing for 2010." That being the case, you have to make a trade for Dunn and play for 2010. By refusing to do so, you're refusing to sacrifice the future, but you're already resigned to sacrificing the future because you can't re-sign Crawford, Pena, or Soriano.

What good is it to be above average every year? This is a year where they could win it all. You have to go for it.
 
By: Erickson
On: 8/1/2010 10:39:00 AM
Concur with both of you. Flags Fly Forever - and the Rays are on the short list of teams that have a really good chance of getting there this year. If the Nats were holding to a line of Garza or Hellickson or no deal, then fine, no Dunn. Then go get Luke Scott, or at the very least, as you suggested, they have to call up Jennings. He's ready - find a way to get him in there.
 
By: Erik Siegrist
On: 8/1/2010 10:40:00 AM
"Id have a hard time believing the Nats would have turned down an offer of Brignac or Moore with a low-level prospect for Dunn."

I don't. The Nats still plan on re-signing Dunn, and they need offense next year to support their young rotation. Plus, if they don't bring him back that offer is no better than the compensation they'd get for letting him walk as a Type A.
 
By: Kevin Payne
On: 8/1/2010 10:48:00 AM
Starting at DH and batting cleanup today....Willy Aybar! (Yes I know Pena is hurt, but come on).
 
By: Kevin Payne
On: 8/1/2010 11:09:00 AM
Erik, you may be right those offers are probably low but the Rays have so many guys in their minors they could have packaged more for Dunn or even Scott. I'd have a hard time believing they couldn't find "fair" trade value. Dunn wants a four-year deal and I don't see the Nationals giving him that.
 
By: Jacobdk
On: 8/1/2010 11:17:00 AM
"Above average every year?" Isn't this the team that was in the World Series two years ago? And don't they have the second best record in baseball right now? I think the front office has earned the benefit of the doubt here (we don't know anything about what teams were asking for). And while your scouting may turn out to be spot on, you're still working with probability, and protecting the NUMBER of prospects you have is a key part of the game.
 
By: Mark Stopa
On: 8/1/2010 4:51:00 PM
Jacob, do you play keeper leagues? I do. If I'm not going to come in first, I'd rather come in last and do everything possible to rebuild for next year. What's the point of coming in 3rd or 4th place every year?
 
By: Jacobdk
On: 8/1/2010 6:39:00 PM
Well, for one thing when you're running a professional sports franchise it's nice to put a competitive team on the field every year and sell a few tickets. But, more to the point, this is one of the best teams in baseball ALREADY. They're not just "above average." And with the core of players they have in place, they have a perfectly good chance of making the playoffs (and thus the World Series) again next year (even without the great Carlos Pena!).

And even more to the point, did they really "refuse" to get Adam Dunn? Were you privy to Washington's asking price? Did you see Dunn get traded to another team, so you know his value?

Sports (in general) affords numerous opportunities for knowledgeable fans to play expert. But a trade that WASN'T MADE seems like a major stretch to second guess.
 
By: Kevin Payne
On: 8/1/2010 8:31:00 PM
Jacob - first thanks for the replies. Mark can more than answer for himself; he's more than a legit Rays fan.

The Rays are losing Crawford, Pena and Soriano to say the least. They aren't an above average team this year, they are elite. But, next year they will be above average and likely for years to come. Even though there's solid replacement value for the players leaving town, there is still a drop there. They have (for whatever reason) let Desmond Jennings, Jeremy Hellickson (at least until now), Dan Johnson, Winston Abreu toil at Triple-A while Willy Aybar, Gabe Kapler, (even) Sean Rodriguez, Lance Cormier and Andy Sonnanstine play in Tampa. There are a ton more prospects I didn't mention like Tim Beckham, Nick Barnese or Alexander Cobb that could have been trade bait. Do we know what the Nats wanted? No, but Brignac/Moore plus one or two should have gotten it done. Think if you're playing Texas hold'em, and you flop a nut straight flush draw. You can pay for a sixth card on the board. Do you do it? Of course. A bit of an exaggeration but kind of what the Rays should have been thinking.

Selling tickets? It's a matter of location and an old park but the Rays are 23rd out of 30 teams in home attendance and they get the BoSox and Yankees a bunch of times. I'm not sure it matters what team they have to put people in the stands; there seemed to be as many Yankees fans in the stands this last series.
 
By: Polocash7
On: 8/1/2010 9:15:00 PM
Yeah,its too bad the Rays didn't get a slugger. However,they are good enough now to win it all.

They pitch well,have team speed & play defense. Everything u need to win.

They was no need to over pay for Dunn. Dunn is usually terrible in the 2nd half any way. I think he's like a .225 hitter career wise in Aug & Sept
 
By: tumanic
On: 8/2/2010 12:16:00 AM
Ted Thompson of the Packers manages like Tampa Bay. As a fan....I don't care for it at all. I want to win a Championship! Pony up and go for it(I miss Ron Wolf) since you have a lot of young trade value....Not, be "above average" for ten years while you replace your free agents with good rookies. From a management stand point, it is a smart play. No championship but an above average team for 10 years is probably good for job security?
 
By: Mark Stopa
On: 8/2/2010 6:27:00 AM
If you don't mind coming in third or fourth every year, then fine. That's you. Me, I'm pulling out my 42-ounce Louisville slugger and swinging for the fences.

As for the "elite already" argument - they aren't as good as the Yankees, and the Yankees improved at the deadline but the Rays did not. Isn't that the point? It doesn't matter if you're a really good team, or even a playoff team. Play to win the title.
 
By: gooklaw
On: 8/2/2010 6:42:00 AM
As a former Qualls owner, I offer the following quiz:
If you had to bet his ERA will end over 5.29 or over 29.5, which would you choose?

Answer: IT DOESN'T MATTER!
 
By: Itchalot
On: 8/2/2010 9:03:00 AM
As a Rays fan I'm glad they didn't trade for Dunn or any other National League player. They don't know the AL pitchers. How good did the Yankees really do? Do Kearns and Berkman really scare anybody? The addition of Woods is the one that will really help them.
 
By: Jacobdk
On: 8/2/2010 12:51:00 PM
Once you make the playoffs the difference between the "Elite" and the others doesn't really matter. Any of the eight teams can win it all--especially a team with 3 very strong starting pitchers. If I'm a GM, my goal is to make the playoffs every year, not have the best overall team for 162 games.
 

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