Baseball is going to be a game of tough decisions, not just with it's in-game decisions. Whether it be in scouting or personnel decisions, you're more than likely going to have to sacrifice one thing for another.
I think I could list many circumstances with how this comes into play for the Rays, if all goes well in this discussion- I just may make this an ongoing series.
However, today, there's 2 situations that come to mind for me:
Positional Players Vs. Pitchers
Potential/Raw Talent Vs. Polish/Production
Positional Players Versus Pitchers
One of the most discussed trades early in the offseason was the trade between the Minnesota Twins and our beloved Rays. It featured 6 players, but in many peoples eyes...it involved Matt Garza and Delmon Young.
People will go back and forth, deciding if a young pitcher is worth more than a young positional player. Both sides have their pros and cons, which increase and decrease by the day due to the trades and statistical trends of the game.
Which side got the better end of the deal? The Rays who added a young and polished starter, a defensive-minded shortstop whose range and playmaking ability shore up ailments that was one of the reasons why the Rays ended the year with the worst records in baseball and future big league set-up man/closer or The Twins who added a "superstar in the making" in Delmon Young, a power-hitting shortstop whose 2007 HR totals encompass Nick Punto's for his entire career and an outfielder who had the best year of his minor league career and primed to play in the majors full-time.
Again, it basically comes down to Delmon Versus Garza.
Garza, on one hand, is put into a very low-pressure situation as the Rays #3 starter under the likes of Scott Kazmir and "2007 Breakout Pitcher" James Shields. If Garza manages to keep his mind clear and makes improvements to his game from last year's, he'll be a low-to-mid 3 ERA #3 starter with a low WHIP and nice K numbers. 5-6 years of that or better will make the Rays look like geniuses in trading a player that made his future intentions clear for a pitcher who would be a #2/possible "ace" on another team other than ours.
Delmon, former #1 overall pick and believed to be a "superstar in the making", is only 22 years old and just showed one of the many sides to his growing game in his rookie year. If you thought his 2007 rookie campaign was great, he's only going to get better and show more improvements as he matures. You've gotta realize, Delmon possibly could've been called up when he was 19 or 20. Think Mauer, Morneau, Young, Cuddyer and Kubel in the middle of a line-up bookended with speedy guys. They're going to open that new ballpark with a bang, that's for sure.
Only time will tell, I suppose. No team really got the better out of the deal, need dealt for need. Depth traded for depth.
Potential/Raw Talent Versus Polish/Production- Pitchers' Edition
On just about any Rays related blog or message board, there's a debate going on. Andy Sonnanstine Versus Edwin Jackson. One pitcher has an arm enables him to throw high-90s fastballs at will without it falling off, the other has immaculate control and a sidearm delivery that make him impossible to prepare for and hit against.
The book on Edwin Jackson is: Amazing raw talent, great fastball and decent offspeed stuff, but absolutely no control whatsoever. He's a pitcher of hot streaks. He'll have a chain of great starts, but he'll have stretches of horrendous ones. His best start, in my mind, last year was the same start that he got hit in the head by a fielded ball. From pitch 1 to pitch 95+, he can zoom a 97 mph fastball over the plate.
The book on Andrew Sonnanstine is: Medicore "stuff", but his immaculate control and sidearm delivery negate that. "Sonny" is a pitcher who pitches over the plate, which is a good thing and a bad thing. On the good side, he goes deep into most of his starts and saves our bullpen from logging in too many innings. On the bad side, he's got a mild case of "gopheritis". However, his K/BB ratios, WHIP and K totals make him a perennial fantasy baseball "breakout candidate"(comparable to David Bush) and a great workhorse/innings-eater to round out a rotation.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, Edwin's potential and raw talent say that he has the ability to be the better out of the 2...if he lives up to it. Sonnanstine's polish and production, which he's shown more of than Jackson, say that he may put together a great major league career...even if he lacks high-speed stuff or 1 "plus" pitcher.