The Trade Deadline Passes Without Action | The Process Report

The Trade Deadline Passes Without Action

Unsurprisingly, the non-waiver traded deadline has passed without the Rays making a move.

The big question entering the day: would the Rays trade James Shields? Reportedly, Andrew Friedman wanted a package better than the group given to the Brewers for Zack Greinke. Whether any package offered came close to the criteria is unknown. Less opaque is how the parties rumored to be interested—the Dodgers, Rangers, Braves, and Cardinals—handled their business without sacrificing their top young talents. Atlanta and Texas both made deals to acquire starting pitchers; the Braves nabbed Paul Maholm (and Reed Johnson) while the Rangers lassoed Ryan Dempster at the last minute. Those two squads relinquished four players: Christian Villanueva, Kyle Hendricks, Arodys Vizcaino, and Jaye Chapman. Or, to give snappy summaries: a third baseman with the potential to be an everyday player, a pitcher with a below-average fastball and good control, a pitcher with electric stuff and big-time durability issues, and a fringe reliever.

Neither Dempster nor Maholm have Shields’ value. But why would either team submit and carve from the fleshy part of their system with the alternatives available at a lower cost? The Rays were dealing from a position unique to Shields in this market. Having Shields under contract for an additional two seasons meant Friedman could hold onto his pitcher and try again this offseason without killing his value. The same holds true for Wade Davis, Jeremy Hellickson, and Alex Cobb. All of whom were rumored to be available. Friedman can survey the market again in the offseason and use the three-to-four month span to find a suitable return.

The only asset the Rays cannot take this approach with is B.J. Upton, as he qualifies for free agency at season’s end. Shane Victorino, who seemingly had similar value as Upton, did get traded to the Dodgers for two pitchers: Josh Lindblom and Ethan Martin. Lindblom is a big-league reliever with 77 solid innings under his belt. Martin went 18th-overall in the 2008 draft, and his stock has declined since. Kevin Goldstein wrote that, were Martin to refine his mechanics and find a semblance of command then he could become “a good no. 4 starter with a shot at becoming a no. 3.”

Complicating matters was the Rays’ position on the peripheral of the playoff hunt. Friedman has tried extending and trading Upton in the past to no avail. He had to make a decision between trading Upton for less than he believes him to be worth or holding onto him and potentially losing him or no future value. It’s an unenviable position; one without a correct answer. You could argue that future value means more than a slight increase in potential playoff chances at this point just as you could argue that small-market teams should take their shots when they can.

That thinking leads to another question: why didn’t the Rays upgrade if they’re attempting to compete? The easiest answer is that they aren’t many places on the diamond for the Rays to easily upgrade. That sounds funny, but with Evan Longoria and Luke Scott soon to return, the Rays will have a logjam at designated hitter and corner outfielder (not to mention on the 25-man roster).

Even at the Rays’ two biggest positions of need—catcher and shortstop—the only player to get moved was Geovany Soto (although Yorvit Torrealba will go soon, too). Neither of the shortstops rumored to be available, Stephen Drew and Yunel Escobar, were traded. Escobar in particular is an interesting player to have on the market. As Goldstein pointed out a few days ago: why would a player with his track record and contract go mostly untouched if teams didn’t have a concern about his supposed character flaws? What’s interesting is that the Rays had tried to acquire Escobar back in 2010, the last time he was on the market. Whether they made an attempt this July is unknown.

So the Rays’ big deadline move happened about a week earlier when they acquired Ryan Roberts. The Red Sox’ biggest addition was Craig Breslow; the Yankees’ was Ichiro, or if you stick to deadline-day-only deals, Casey McGehee (although I suppose some would argue shedding Chad Qualls); the Orioles failed to land a starting pitcher, as did the Jays, and the Athletics failed to land a left-side infielder. Some teams did upgrade within the competitive tier of the American League, some didn’t. With the exception of the Angels, it does not feel like there was a much of a talent shift.

Perhaps there will be a waiver deal (as Friedman has pulled off seemingly every August since 2008). For now, though, the Rays have about an 18 percent shot at a playoff spot according to BP’s playoff odds. Not good odds, but not hopeless, either; you can see some room for optimism even with the return of Longoria and Scott, likely improvements from key regulars like Upton, Desmond Jennings, and Sean Rodriguez, and so on. It’s not going to be easy, and there’s a high likelihood that the Rays won’t make the postseason. Drawing parallels to 2011 is pointless. But I’m reminded—as I often am when the Rays are in a tough spot—of a Shields quote from the 2010 postseason.

The Rays had taken their lumps against the Rangers and fallen behind 2-0 in the series when he said, “We got to fight our way back. We’ve been fighters ever since ’08 when we started turning this organization around so it’s time to go.”

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