07/31/08 7:06 PM ET
Rays make no moves at Deadline
Unwilling to part with prospects, Tampa Bay stays put
By Bill Chastain / MLB.com
"We had conversations that went right down to the wire," said Andrew Friedman, the Rays' executive vice president of baseball operations. "And whenever you have that, obviously, you feel like there's a chance. But it takes two teams. And, by definition, trades are difficult to make. And we've worked extremely hard the last couple of weeks to try and find a pick and improve the team, but at the end of the day, we didn't find something that lined up for us."
Neither relief help, nor a right-handed bat could be had, so the Rays will head into the final months of the season with the same group that led them to a three-game lead in the American League East. A trade for Pittsburgh's Jason Bay did not happen, as Bay ended up going to the Red Sox in a three-way deal that sent Boston's Manny Ramirez to the Dodgers and four prospects to the Pirates.
Friedman chose not to comment on how close the Rays got to making a deal for Bay or any other players.
"I'm not going to address speculation," Friedman said. "I know there was a lot out there. The way we view that is that the Trade Deadline is an opportunity for us to examine ways to improve our club. We did that. We had a lot of discussions. A few of them led right up to the deadline. But, obviously, nothing came to fruition."
Friedman did not sound panicked about staying with the team he has, even though the Rays have struggled offensively.
"We have to keep an open mind that we've got a first-place club," Friedman said. "And for us, offensively, we have struggled. And we believe that basically we're going to have made an acquisition by the way our guys are going to perform over the last two months. They've got a track record that suggests such and we believe there's a lot more to come."
Friedman declined to weigh in on the three-way deal executed by the Pirates, Red Sox and Dodgers, but he did offer his thoughts on Ramirez leaving the American League.
"It's a story that, obviously, all of us have followed some and we probably only know half of the details," Friedman said. "He's done very well against us in the past. And hopefully we see him again this year."
Without the acquisition of a right-handed bat, the Rays will hope for the best in using Jonny Gomes against left-handers or, perhaps, they will get a boost from a return of Rocco Baldelli.
But even if Baldelli returns, he represents a great unknown for how much he will be able to contribute due to the nature of the mitochondrial disorder he is suffering from, which can leave him in a constant state of fatigue if not monitored properly. At the very least, if Baldelli returns he will not be an everyday player.
"It's not clear yet," said Friedman when asked about plans for Baldelli. "Instead of kind of speculating on the future, which we're still kind of going through, we've been very pleased with the process he's made, both baseball skills-wise and health-wise, he's done extremely well so far.
"We've got some tests to run through on the baseball field, which we will continue to do. If he comes through that and it looks like it's the right thing for him and the club at the time he'll be back. So it's something we'll continue to monitor every day to figure out when, slash if, it makes sense."
In addition to not acquiring a right-handed bat, the Rays did not acquire relief help.
Though their bullpen has done well this season, there are question marks primarily due to health concerns. Closer Troy Percival has spent time on the disabled list due to a strained left hamstring that kept him out of 27 games, and Al Reyes has not been effective all season, serving two stints on the disabled list and missing 55 games due to a right-shoulder impingement and right-shoulder tendinitis.
Because the Rays were buyers this season for the first time in franchise history, they were involved in many trade talks and rumors for the likes of Mark Teixeira, Xavier Nady, Casey Blake, Ken Griffey Jr., Joe Blanton, Brian Fuentes, Jon Rauch, Arthur Rhodes, CC Sabathia and Matt Holliday to name a few.
Friedman said being a buyer wasn't that much different than being a seller.
"We had just as many conversations as we've had in years past," Friedman said. "The conversations are similar and it just gets down to the specifics of that year and how everything lines up. In this game, we've been fortunate to make a lot of trades the last couple of years. But it's a difficult process and there's a lot that goes into it. And obviously it takes both sides to make it happen."
The Rays' farm system is rich with prospects many teams would have liked to pry loose, particularly top prospect David Price, but the Rays had to proceed with caution since the price to pay for many trade candidates in a seller's market were overvalued.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.