Too Early To Tell

Carl Crawford should pick it up.

It is truly way too early to label a team winners or losers at the trade deadline, says Tyler Hissey. Just ask Omar Minaya, who was applauded for landing Bartolo Colon back in 2002 when he was the GM of the Montreal Expos. Minaya, however, parted ways with three future stars—Brandon Phillips, Cliff Lee and Grady Sizemore—as the Expos fell apart the rest of the way and failed to reach the playoffs.

The New York Yankees landed a catcher, Ivan Rodriguez, at the trade deadline to fill in for the injured Jorge Posada. This gave New York another option with Jose Molina expected to see the majority of innings at the position before the deal. The Yankees also added a solid reliever and right-handed bat, acquiring Damaso Marte and Xavier Nady. Thus, many analysts have labeled the club as "winners" at the trade deadline, giving some deserved credit to longtime general manager Brian Cashman.

The Boston Red Sox lost the production of slugger Manny Ramirez, but got rid of his baggage and added a capable replacement who is better defensively, Jason Bay, who has gotten off to an excellent start with his new team.

However, the other team competing for the American League East title, the Tampa Bay Rays, remained pat at the deadline. Tampa Bay Executive VP of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman refused to give up any "elite" arms to acquire Bay, for whom the Pittsburgh Pirates turned his services into a nice package of four prospects in three-team deal that sent Ramirez to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Friedman and the Rays have been labeled as "losers" accordingly, but are they really? Giving up a potential future top-15 shortstop in the league, Reid Brignac, or Wade Davis or Jeremy Hellickson would be inconsistent with the vision of the Rays' ownership group for sustaining their current level of success for an extended time period.

It is truly way too early to label a team winners or losers. Just ask Omar Minaya, who was applauded for landing Bartolo Colon back in 2002 when he was the GM of the Montreal Expos. Minaya, however, parted ways with three future stars—Brandon Phillips, Cliff Lee and Grady Sizemore—as the Expos fell apart the rest of the way and failed to reach the playoffs.

A verdict, then, will not be out on this trade deadline season—all of the deals—for a long time. Plus, for a small-market team to maintain its success in the current economic market in the industry, it must look at its young prospects as cost-effective assets, which the Rays have done.

The Rays were losers, writes Jayson Stark. Yahoo! Sports agrees.

Instead, the club may receive a boost from former star Rocco Baldelli, who has made steady progress in his rare health condition. Baldelli finished a rehab assignment with Double-A Montgomery on Thursday night, and could return to the Rays during the current homestand. He hit .297/.409/.568 with three home runs and eight RBIs in 37 at-bats with the Biscuits.

A Baldelli decision may be coming, writes Marc Lancaster. This will give Friedman and his staff an important decision to make about the status of Gabe Gross and Jonny Gomes. Gross adds tremendous value with his defense in right field, leaving the club with a difficult choice here.

The internal candidate who is most likely to make an impact in the AL East race for the Rays, though, is former number one overall pick David Price. Price improved to 10-0 as a professional on Saturday night, striking out 10 in seven innings to lead the Biscuits to a win over the West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx. The talented left-hander, the best pitching prospect in the minors, is now 6-0 with a 2.08 ERA and 48-to-12 K/W ratio in eight Southern League starts. He has a chance to make the jump to the majors without pitching in Triple-A, Friedman says.

With all of the additions made elsewhere in the division, Price truly could be the ultimate upgrade for a stretch run, perhaps more so than Nady or Rodriguez. He is that good, having shown an advanced approach to pitching, mid-90s fastball and excellent command. If there is a pitcher to make a Joba-like impact, it is him.

Jeff Niemann and Justin Ruggiano could also contribute as well.

Niemann, who was linked to Pittsburgh in the Bay talks, is 7-5 with a 3.53 ERA and 88-to-36 K/W ratio at Triple-A Durham. The former first-round pick has seen his star dim as all of the injuries have taken a tool, decreasing his once-plus velocity. He is still on the track to the majors, however. He would have benefited from a trade to Pittsburgh, where he would have jumped into the starting rotation.

Ruggiano has never been a favorite among scouts, but has posted some solid statistics during his minor league career. The 26-year-old outfielder has performed well again at Durham so far, batting .316/.374/.529 with nine homers and 42 RBIs. The status of Baldelli will determine if he ever gets a realistic shot with the parent club, which he did not get during his stint with the Rays earlier this season. He went 4-for-5 with an RBI in the Bulls' 8-2 win over the Charlotte Knights on Saturday night.

Links:

Evan Longoria continued to build his case for AL Rookie of the Year on Saturday night, tying Gomes' rookie single-season record with his 21st home run to lead the Rays to a 9-3 victory over the Detroit Tigers. Longoria, a first-round pick back in 2006, finished 3-for-5 with three RBIs to raise his line to .280/.354/.540 and increase his RBI total to 67. He is leading the club in homers, RBIs and OPS (.879).

Tampa Bay cranked out nine runs on 11 hits overall, winning its fourth straight game while continuing to shine in the friendly confines of Tropicana Field.

Carl Crawford, hot of late, continued to perform since moving out of the two spot in the batting order. Crawford, who has a seven-game hitting streak, drove in two and scored twice. The perennial stolen-base threat—whose totals are down because of his poor on-base percentage—swiped his first bag in eight game as well, and is now batting .272/.315/.401. With a .717 OPS, a low number for a player at the left field position, he has to turn it around, and appears to be doing so. With his track record, he could add an impact bat by default, having the chance to help Tampa Bay score more runs if he can get on base more frequently to take advantage of his biggest asset, speed.

Andy Sonnanstine got the run support that has eluded him for most of July to earn the win. Sonnanstine scattered seven hits, allowing two earned runs while striking out six. Although he is now 11-6 and leading the staff in wins, it was a big outing for him, with Price waiting in the wings and his 4.58 ERA leaving a bit to be desired.

Tampa Bay is now three games up on Boston—and 5.5 on New York—in the division, improving its home record to 42-16 and 65-44 overall. They set a record for most home wins (42) in a season.

James Shields has been one of the best pitchers in the majors at home this season, going 7-1 with a 2.16 ERA, .205 opponents' batting average and 72-to-14 K/W ratio in 12 starts at Tropicana Field. Shields will look to continue that success in the finale of the three-game series with Detroit on Sunday, writes Bill Chastain.

One thing that has gone unnoticed at times is the Rays' team defense. With B.J. Upton and Ty Wigginton logging innings at second base and Brendan Harris and Josh Wilson and others doing the same at shortstop, the Tampa Bay infield defense was terrible in 2007. The addition of Jason Bartlett at shortstop, transition of Akinori Iwamura to second base and emergence of Longoria has helped change that landscape.

This has had tremendous overall positive effects on Tampa Bay's young pitchers, and is a major reason why the club is still in first place this late in the game. The club currently ranks first in the league in defensive efficiency—the rate at which balls put into play are converted into outs. As much as the bullpen has improved as well, it is hard to put into words the strides that this team has made in the run prevention equation.

Friedman deserves plenty of credit for pulling the trigger on the Delmon Young deal, with improving the team defense on his mind.

Manny Who?

The Red Sox also won on Friday night, pounding out 12 runs to crush the Oakland Athletics. Bay—who scored the winning run in an extra-innings affair during his Fenway debut on Friday—continued to produce, hitting a home run in the win while Jon Lester improved to 10-3.

Lester has truly turned into an excellent front-end starter in this league, having made it through seven innings in eight of his past nine starts. The 24-year-old left-hander, who threw a no-hitter against the Kansas City Royals earlier this season, has posted a 3.14 ERA and 101-to-46 K/W ratio to help anchor the Boston pitching staff.

The Red Sox are moving on without Manny, writes Katie Zezima.

Kevin Youkilis also got in on the action, belting two homers and increasing his hit streak to nine games. He has had a great year—on the defensive side as well—and is currently batting .313/.380/.557 with 20 long balls and 74 RBIs. He is an integral part of the Boston offensive attack.

Yankees Also Win

New York also got in the win column, as the dream season continued for Mike Mussina, who surrendered only two runs on two hits in seven solid innings to help the Yankees shut down the hot-as-fire Los Angeles Angels and new acquisition Mark Teixeira.

Honestly, where would the Yankees be without Mussina? He has been a pleasant surprise for them, winning 14 games while posting an impressive 3.44 ERA and stellar 90-to-19 K/W. He does not leave a lot of room for error with his declining stuff, but has worked the corners magically with his excellent control and command

After getting roughed up in his last outing, a 13-4 loss to the Baltimore Orioles, many thought that Mussina was finally regressing back to the mean. Yet he bounced back nicely, out dueling Jered Weaver while holding the Angels scoreless after giving up two runs in the first inning.

Mussina continues to defy the passage of time, writes Brian Heyman.

Jose Molina is going to be his personal catcher, writes Anthony Rieber.

Bobby Abreu, Wilson Betemit, Jose Molina (his first of the year) and Alex Rodriguez all homered for the Yankees, who were without second baseman Robinson Cano.

Brian Bruney was called back up to the club, writes Joshua Robinson.

New York, however, will not get a boost in September from ace Chien-Ming Wang, who will miss the remainder of the regular season but could return for the playoffs.

Phil Hughes is also trying to make his way back from a broken rib, and could have an impact. Hughes is currently on a rehab assignment along with Carl Pavano, pitching for the Charleston RiverDogs in the South Atlantic League. In his second outing with Charleston on Saturday night, he earned the win in relief of Pavano, who started the game and allowed an earned run in three innings. Hughes was impressive, striking out five in 3.2 innings pitched.

Waiver Talk:

Although the trade deadline has passed, players can still move teams in the August waiver trading period. Paul DePodesta, the former Los Angeles Dodgers GM and Billy Beane protégé, provides an excellent post on this process in his blog. DePodesta, a major figure in the book Moneyball, currently works in the front office for the San Diego Padres.

Ziegler Story:

The story of Brad Ziegler is about as interesting as it gets. Click here for an excellent recap of his journey, courtesy of blogger extraordinaire Joe Posnanski of the Kansas City Star.

On Monday at 2:00, Tyler Hissey will host a live chat, similar to the trade deadline live blog on Thursday. Feel free to stop by and ask a question. Click here to access the chat.

To contact Tyler Hissey, send an email to TylerHissey@gmail.com.

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