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Don't bemoan Tampa Bay Rays not making a big trade at deadline

Elite company: Carl Crawford, who turns 29 Thursday, avoids shortstop Derek Jeter’s tag during the first inning for his 400th career stolen base. Only six other players reached 400 before age 29: Cesar Cedeno, Ty Cobb, Vince Coleman, Eddie Collins, Rickey Henderson and Tim Raines.

JAMES BORCHUCK | Times

Elite company: Carl Crawford, who turns 29 Thursday, avoids shortstop Derek Jeter’s tag during the first inning for his 400th career stolen base. Only six other players reached 400 before age 29: Cesar Cedeno, Ty Cobb, Vince Coleman, Eddie Collins, Rickey Henderson and Tim Raines.

ST. PETERSBURG

How's this for a deal? The Rays have traded 10 weeks for 10 years. They have swapped popularity for perspective. They have bartered immediate gratification for the long-term good.

Just that.

Even so, Saturday's trading day left you unhappy, didn't it? You wanted immediate help, and you wanted hope, and for goodness sake, you wanted headlines. You wanted the big deal of the day. You wanted a trade that would have impressed the critics, the cynics and, most of all, the Yankees.

What did you get? You got reliever Chad Qualls and an ERA that is large enough to crush infielders if it falls on them.

And furthermore, bupkes.

You are disappointed, aren't you? You are dismayed. For goodness sake, anyone can see the Rays need another stick. They need a little more pop, a little more energy, a little more danger. They need a designated hitter that is not so much designated as he is a hitter. They need reinforcements, darn it.

I know, I know. It is a difficult thing when the local team decides to sit out the Saturday Swap Meet, isn't it? You didn't get your Adam Dunn. Or your Luke Scott. Or your Jayson Werth or Corey Hart or Josh Willingham or anyone else who had been mentioned in those throw-a-potential-trade-against-the-wall conversations that have dominated the Internet lately. When you consider that Carlos Peña injured a foot Saturday night, that kind of bat would be particularly welcome.

That said, this was a good trading day for the Rays. Really, it was.

Start with this: The Rays didn't allow their eagerness to pick up a bat get in the way of their own future.

Surely, that had to be a temptation. Hey, the Rays know they need another hitter, too, and they know how rare it is to have a year where they are this close to the playoffs.

Executive vice president Andrew Friedman said the Rays had five hitters targeted. Trade for any of them, and Friedman would have been the most popular guy in town.

Trader Andy, everyone would call him, and he would high-five until his palm was sore. He'd never pay for another box of Cracker Jack in this town, by golly.

But here's the thing. The cost would have been too great. None of the five desired hitters, according to Friedman, changed teams. That says something about the asking price of those hitters, doesn't it?

It was too much not only for the Rays; it was too much for everyone.

Ask yourself: Would you have been willing to see the Rays turn loose Reid Brignac or Wade Davis from the big-league roster? Or Jeremy Hellickson or Desmond Jennings from Triple A? Put it this way: If I was an opposing general manager, those are the names I would have wanted. You, too.

Those kinds of trades make no sense for the Rays. If they're going to continue to compete in the American League East, they'll do it with homegrown players.

Besides, this season isn't just about winning the AL East. It's also about the wild-card race. And here's an interesting tidbit: Boston, a team that usually treats trading day as if it were a buffet, didn't trade for an impact player, either. That means the Red Sox, 5½ games behind the Rays, are betting their aging bodies can heal in time to make up the ground.

Say this much for Saturday's trading deadline: If it didn't have the big weapons coming in that you might have wanted, it didn't have the big weapons leaving that you might have feared. Breathe a sigh of relief over that one.

Think about it for a minute. What if the Rays' season had been a disappointment so far? What if the Rays had stumbled or if players had gotten hurt. What if the team had underachieved the way it did a year ago?

In that case, would Saturday have been the day the team said farewell to Carl Crawford? Or Peña? Or Rafael Soriano? Or Jason Bartlett?

If nothing else, the Rays have traded that scenario for this one. Yes, they lost a tough game to a tough opponent Saturday night, falling 5-4 to the Yankees in a game where every Yankee but Alex Rodriguez seemed to crush the ball.

Still, the Rays are 25 games over .500, and they're in the lead in the wild-card chase, and they are on the brink of a playoff race that looks as if it is going to be fun to watch.

That, you shouldn't trade for anything.

Gary Shelton can be reached at shelton@sptimes.com.

Don't bemoan Tampa Bay Rays not making a big trade at deadline 07/31/10 [Last modified: Sunday, August 1, 2010 12:40pm]
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