The Julio Lugo saga has finally ended. Early on, it appeared that the Toronto Blue Jays were the only serious bidder for the services of Lugo for the final two months of the season. With the Jays starting to slip in the standings and no other teams interested, the Jays stood pat on their refusal to part with any of their top pitching prospects. This led to an 11th hour attempt by the Devil Rays’ front office to sign Lugo to an extension. Negotiations never reached serious stages as the two sides were just too far apart.
Then something happened to help the Devil Rays trade the free agent-to-be…Peter Angelos bought the Baltimore Orioles. OK, so he bought the team in 1993, 5 years before the Devil Rays would even play an official game. But in the last two days Angelos showed what a terrible owner he is by turning down at least two offers from other teams that would have landed the Orioles top pitchers in addition to other players. As a result, several teams that were looking for a shortstop with a strong bat, turned their attention to Julio Lugo. In the last 24 hours before the trade deadline, the Red Sox and the Astros were rumored to be in negotiations with the Devil Rays. What was clear, was that nobody was going to budge on their top pitching prospects, so the Devil Rays front office turned their attention to the best prospect(s) available. In the last hour before the deadline, the Rays worked out a deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers for two minor leaguers, Joel Guzman and Sergio Pedroza.
We have to admit…we never thought the Rays would be able to get a very strong prospect for Julio Lugo. We would have been happy with a mid-level pitcher with potential and maybe a throw-in position player and hope for the best. In fact the Rays were able to land Guzman, who was rated in the preseason by Baseball America as the Dodgers’ top prospect. Guzman, who is listed at 6-6, 260 (he’s a big boy) has come up through the Dodgers’ system as a shortstop, but this season he had been moved to the outfield in an effort to get his power bat to the majors. He appeared in 8 games for Los Angeles earlier this year, going 4-19 with 3 RBI. First and foremost, Guzman is a hitting prospect. His most likely position with the Devil Rays would be first base, where there is an immediate need in 2007. He could also end up at third base if Upton ultimately moves back to shortstop. Guzman’s strikeout totals in the minor leagues have been high, but his bat is believed to be major league ready or near major league ready. During last night’s game against Detroit, Andrew Friedman stated that Guzman would start with the Durham Bulls, but that there is a good chance he would be in a Devil Rays uniform in September when rosters expand.
The Devil Rays were not able to land a top pitching prospect at the deadline, but they obtained the next best thing. They acquired a top hitting prospect that could ultimately fill a void in the team’s lineup for 2007 and beyond.