This trade was not Delmon Young-for-Matt Garza.
This trade was not a 3-for-3 deal.
Make no mistake this was a 3-for-1 deal and one could make a very strong argument that this was a 5-for-1 deal (we will get back to that in a moment).
Both Brendan Harris and Jason Pridie were expendable, leaving Young as the only piece of significance given up by the Rays. Harris proved in the first half of 2007 that he could hit a baseball. Unfortunately, Harris proved all season that he is not a major league shortstop, often playing the position as if he had his feet stuck in cement. Pridie is a talented young outfielder, but there was clearly no future for him in a Rays uniform, with the team’s depth of outfield talent at all levels.
On the other hand the Rays pick up one of the top young pitchers in baseball (Garza), who is still two seasons from arbitration, a starting shortstop for 2008 and maybe beyond (Jason Bartlett), and one of the top closer prospects in baseball (Eduardo Morlan). Originally the deal was to include Juan Rincon, but concerns over his elbow lead the Rays to insist on the inclusion
of Morlan. Rincon would have added depth to the Rays 2008 bullpen, but Morlan could end up being a more valuable acquisition.
In addition to the three pieces from the Twins, the Rays also indirectly acquired a AAA all-star outfielder and long reliever/spot starter to give the bullpen added depth.
Justin Ruggiano: Moving Delmon Young opens up a spot in right field. With both Rocco Baldelli and Jonny Gomes on the roster, Ruggiano would most likely have started the season in Durham. With Young gone, the star for Team USA in the World Cup is now the leading candidate to be the fourth outfielder and the team will likely employ a rotation with Rocco, Gomes and Ruggiano sharing time in right field and DH.
Jason Hammel: Hammel was originally slotted as the fifth starter and with the acquisition of Garza, he is the odd man out. Hammel, who is out of options will now most likely be moved to the bullpen where he worked last season before entering the rotation. Hammel is an immediate upgrade over another pitcher currently in the organization that could have filled the role of long reliever/spot starter.
Most reactions to the trade, whether they be Twins, Rays or Neutral fans, suggest that Young-for-Garza is either a push or a slight edge for the Twins, citing Young’s enormous upside. Those same reactions also unanimously agree that the other four players included in the deal, make the Rays the winners of the deal. Now add Ruggiano and Hammel to the deal and consider that Pridie and Harris were expendable and the 5-for-1 deal in which the Rays receive five important pieces for a 5-tool player that has never shown three of those tools (power, speed, glove) at any level and the Rays are a significantly better team this week than they were last week.
When the tree stops shaking, let’s now take a look at what the 25-man roster could look like on opening day 2008. (notes on this projection can be found below)
- INFIELD: We still feel that Akinori Iwamura will be at second base, no matter what the team decides to do with Evan Longoria. If the Dirtbag is not ready, they will most likely use a stopgap such as Joel Guzman, who has proved to be more than adequate with the glove. Aki just does not have the arm to be a major league third baseman and there is no sense moving him mid-season.
- OUTFIELD: Without Delmon Young, there is now a big question mark in right field. Without any further trades (Jonny Gomes?) the Rays will most likely go with a 3-man platoon in right with Gomes, Ruggiano and Rocco with one of the odd-men out playing DH every night. With Rocco’s legs and Gomes questionable glove, Ruggiano could be the most-days right fielder. The biggest problem with this scenario is that all three swing from the right side. If Gomes is moved, look for a left-handed bat to come back to the Ray in the deal.
- BENCH: Several question marks here. Will the team sign a veteran free agent catcher? Will they find a left-handed bat to come off the bench/is the switch-hitting Zobrist sufficient? Does that give Zobrist an edge over Josh Wilson to be the utility infielder?
- ROTATION: The Rays just went from “Kaz, Shields and pray for a power outage” to looking like they have a very formidable rotation. Before the trade, there were questions if the Rays even had a pitcher ready to fill the fifth spot. Now Jackson and Sonnanstine slide down to #4 and #5 and both look a lot better in those spots. The odd-man out on the surface is Jason Hammel, but Jeff Niemann could have been hurt the worst. Niemann could have competed in spring training with Hammel. He will have a much more difficult time trying to push aside Sonnanstine and is now more likely to begin season at AAA.
- BULLPEN: One of the worst in the history of baseball in 2007, the bullpen is suddenly looking like it could be a strength. Percival is the closer. He had a strong 2007 after coming out of retirement, but he will be 38 on opening day. The new 8th inning guy is Al Reyes and he will be 37 with a history that includes two Tommy John surgeries. If those two can stay healthy and effective, the rest of the bullpen slots very nicely, especially with the addition of Hammel. Five of the spots look to be spoken for, which leaves two open for competition in Spring Training. Birkins gets an edge being left handed. In 2006 and 2007, the Rays were not trying to compete so it was easier for Joe Maddon to leave spring training without a lefty in the pen. We can’t see him doing that in 2008. Dohmann was strong in the second half of 2007 and is out of options, but so are Gary Glover and Grant Balfour.