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Tampa Bay Rays don't need to make a trade

Set a plate for Prince Fielder. He'll be here soon.

Won't he?

If not Fielder, has anyone cleared locker space for Jayson Werth yet? Has anyone sewed Corey Hart's name onto a jersey? Does anyone know when Paul Konerko's plane lands? Or what number Adam Dunn might prefer?

Somebody has to arrive soon, and somebody has to be dragging a very large, lethal bat behind them. Someone has to add a little more thump to the batting order. Someone has to improve the Rays' odds of reaching the postseason.

Don't they?

Well, maybe not.

I understand. You want a trade. Frankly, I want a trade, too. And I'm convinced that if you loaded up Rays executive vice president Andrew Friedman with truth serum, he'd tell you he wanted a trade, too. When a team is battling against the Yankees and the Red Sox for a playoff spot, who wouldn't want another weapon?

By now, the town sounds desperate. Listen to the talk shows. Read the blogs. Talk to the fans. Anywhere you turn, you get that breathless, imploring voice who wants to bring in a mercenary. The Rays are in the chase, and it is natural to want a boost. And so time after time, you hear this: Just get it done.

Then there is reason, which adds this to the conversation:

It depends on the price.

When you think about it, doesn't everything?

That's what the just-get-it-done set doesn't seem to acknowledge. There is a price where a trade makes perfect sense for the Rays. And there is a price that is simply too much to pay.

Put it this way: If you want an impact bat today, you probably wanted one back in 2008, too. In particular, you probably wanted Jason Bay's. That was the Rays' target of affection back then, remember?

Ah, but do you remember this? According to reports, the Pirates wanted minor-leaguers Wade Davis, Reid Brignac and Jeremy Hellickson for Bay. That's what the just-get-it-done price tag was.

Looking back, how does that deal look to you now? The Rays couldn't have afforded the money to keep Bay around, and they would have lost three of the reasons to believe in their future. Unless the Rays had won the 2008 World Series as a result, that would have been a horrible trade then. And a similar price would be a horrible trade now.

Still, making a trade isn't as simple as wanting a trade. A team has to consider fit. It has to consider finances. And yes, it has to consider the future.

Think of this: Are you prepared to see Hellickson traded? Desmond Jennings? You shouldn't be. Still, those are the first two names another general manager is going to ask for in a trade. Hey, people aren't calling the Rays to ask about Dioner Navarro's availability in return for their slugger.

Here's the first question you should ask: Do the Rays need to make a trade?

No, they don't.

I'll say it again: A trade could help because this team really could use another stick in the middle of the order. On the other hand, the Rays are two games back. That's not exactly a deal-or-fold scenario.

You know what two games back is? Go back to April 11, when the Rays led the Yankees 2-1 in the sixth inning. The Yankees got a big home run from Jorge Posada and went on to win the game. If the Rays had pulled it out, the teams would be tied now. That's how close they are.

To put it another way: Are you saying that the race is over if the Rays don't make a deal? Of course not. What we're talking about is adjusting the odds, not folding a hand.

Remember this: The Rays are different from most teams. There isn't a team in baseball that counts more on its prospects. The Yankees and Red Sox can afford to trade away their best minor-leaguers. They can always go out and fill their holes with high-priced free agents. The Rays can't do that.

Look, I want to be in the banging-the-fist-on-the-table crowd, too. It's the fun position to take. You can yell for a trade, and if one doesn't occur, you get to say, "I told you they should have made a trade," for the rest of the year. If the Rays do make a trade, you get to say, "They should have made a better trade." It's great to be shrill. It's grand to demand immediate satisfaction.

On the other hand, making a trade — and judging one — is a little more complex than that.

For instance, is Fielder really a good idea? He has said he doesn't want to be a designated hitter, and after watching Pat Burrell struggle with the role, would the Rays be wise to force the idea?

Is Hart a good fit? He's in the middle of a career year so far. That means he's going to be tremendously overinflated.

Is Konerko even available? With the White Sox in their own division race, it's not likely.

And so the search begins for the right guy, at the right price, in the right deal.

After all, someone has to want Navarro. Don't they?

In today's Times

A 10-page section looks back on George Steinbrenner and his influence on baseball and the bay area.

Funeral: Steinbrenner is buried during a private ceremony. Section B

Tampa Bay Rays don't need to make a trade 07/17/10 [Last modified: Sunday, July 18, 2010 11:06am]
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