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Playoff odds for Tampa Bay Rays change little despite inactivity at trade deadline

ST. PETERSBURG — The general consensus around the game was that the Red Sox were among the biggest "winners" at Friday's nonwaiver trade deadline by adding Victor Martinez to bolster their sagging offense.

The implied conclusion is that the Rays were losers, or at least will lose ground, by not making any moves, either to an offense that finished July with a .234 average (28th in the majors) or a pitching staff lacking an ace and true closer. (Though they tried, inquiring about starters Felix Hernandez and Roy Halladay and relievers Heath Bell and Michael Wuertz, among others.)

The Rays don't feel that way, of course, talking confidently about the players they have and their hope for strong finishes by struggling Pat Burrell, Carlos Peña and Dioner Navarro.

So how much greater is their challenge of getting to the postseason?

Actually, not that much more than it was before the deadline.

The division-leading Yankees added just utilityman Jerry Hairston and remain thin on starting pitching and outfield depth. But they, as always, have the money to make a waiver-wire pickup.

Certainly the Red Sox, who lead the wild-card race, come to the Trop Tuesday a better team.

There's some redundancy to their roster and a fair question of how manager Terry Francona will get Martinez at-bats — at catcher, first and DH — without too much alienation of fading stars Mike Lowell, Jason Varitek and David Ortiz. Martinez, hitting under .200 the past two months, will catch a few days a week, but putting him at first and Kevin Youkilis at third makes them strongest given Lowell's defensive decline.

The other team the Rays trail in the wild-card race is the Rangers, who also didn't do anything and seem likely to fade.

All three AL Central contenders improved but shouldn't be a factor in the wild-card race. The Rays have games left only with the Tigers, who got better by adding Jarrod Washburn from the Mariners, which makes it a, well, wash, since the Rays also play Seattle. The two teams the Rays play the most got worse, the Orioles trading closer George Sherrill and the Jays 3B Scott Rolen.

And the worst thing that could have happened didn't. "It's just better," manager Joe Maddon said, "that (Halladay) is not wearing a Red Sox or a Yankee uniform."

Playoff odds for Tampa Bay Rays change little despite inactivity at trade deadline 08/01/09 [Last modified: Sunday, August 2, 2009 7:25am]
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