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Flurry of deals leave Tampa Bay Rays ahead

ST. PETERSBURG — Roy Halladay went to Philadelphia. John Lackey to Boston. Cliff Lee and, in the ultimate act of regifting, Milton Bradley to Seattle.

So where, after a dizzying preholi­day week of moves, does that leave the Rays? Arguably in a better place.

HALLADAY: The Rays, arguably, could be the only team to miss having the former Blue Jays ace around the AL East.

While others failed, the Rays feasted, going 7-3, 3.69 in 11 tries the past two seasons — in which Halladay lost only 21 total. Overall, they've battled to a 12-11 mark against him. He has more losses only to Boston, and — in a bit of good trivia — he's the pitcher the Rays have beaten the most — one more time than the infamous Sir Sidney Ponson.

Plus, while the Rays were beating Halladay, he was beating their toughest competitors, his 13 wins against the Red Sox and Yankees the past two seasons the most of any pitcher.

But realistically, the Rays were going to have a hard time keeping it up given how he was 136-65 against everyone else. And it was obviously hard work battling him. So having one less top-level pitcher to face regularly has to be a good thing.

LACKEY: The bulldog righty has had strong success against the Rays on a limited basis, 9-2, 3.07 in 12 games while with the Angels. Now that he's with the Red Sox, they'll have to face him five or six times a season. (One tidbit: His 6.75 Trop ERA is his highest of any AL park).

LEE: Seeing Lee return to the American League isn't necessarily good for the Rays given his 6-2, 2.32 record. But having him in Seattle helps; at most they'll face him only 2-3 times a year.

BRADLEY: The Rays had their reasons for wanting to bring in Bradley — specifically his .371 career on-base percentage, middle-of-the-order switch-hitting presence, tenaciousness about winning, the confidence Joe Maddon could manage him.

Oh yeah, and he wasn't Pat Burrell.

But the past that precedes Bradley is not pretty, a track record of causing problems at every stop. Even the places where things went well, such as Oakland and Texas, ended badly in some form.

And a top exec of one of his past teams said that more than the big blowups, it was the weeks of little things that people didn't hear about that were more wearing on the team.

The Rays were certainly willing, at the right price (which was more than half of the $13 million Bradley is due in 2011), to take the risk.

But it sure seems they are better off taking their chances with Burrell doing better (because he can't do much worse) or finding another way to deal him than bringing Bradley into a clubhouse of young and impressionable rising stars such as B.J. Upton, Evan Longoria, David Price, Wade Davis and perhaps having a lasting residual.

Rays rumblings: Free agent Gary Sheffield, 41, is in great shape and working for greater, hoping to play two more seasons, reach 3,000 hits and finish his career with the Rays. … LF Carl Crawford was 91st, and the only Ray, on ESPN.com writer Rob Neyer's list of the 100 greatest players of the decade. … The player going to Cleveland in the Kelly Shoppach deal should be named today. Any guesses? Mitch Talbot? Elliot Johnson? … Baseball America reveals its Rays top 10 prospects list Monday. … The Rays remain interested in free agent reliever Kelvim Escobar, scouting his winter ball work in Venezuela. … The Rays are still waiting for LHP Brian Shouse to sign a big-league deal so they can get a fourth pick among the top 50 of next year's draft. … New Mariners mega-millionaire Chone Figgins plans to start a Getting Figgy With It charity, building youth league fields in his hometown Tampa area and Seattle.

Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@sptimes.com.

Flurry of deals leave Tampa Bay Rays ahead 12/19/09 [Last modified: Saturday, December 19, 2009 8:51pm]
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