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Is it Trade Rumor Time Already?

My how time flies... we're only about seven weeks away from the trade deadline so the trade rumors are flying all across Major League Baseball. Two interesting rumors about the Rays have popped up recently, and they are two rumors the Rays may want to look in to if the price is right.

For starters, I'm not one who likes to spread trade rumors. Alot of trade rumors you read come from sports writers who have nothing better to do but stir the pot. Often, those rumors start with an underperforming team. The writer looks at the team's payroll, selects the top two or three salaries, and suggests the team trades those players, sometimes suggesting which teams those players should be traded to. But every now and then, some of those rumors come from trusted sources and reporters. One of those very accurate reporters is ESPN's Peter Gammons.

Gammons recently brought up two trade scenarios, each involving players that make up the Rays success now and possibly for next season. What they do beyond next season is a big question mark, which makes the trade possibilities even more interesting. While I won't guess where these players should go or who the Rays should get in return, I will suggest the Rays should look into these rumors.

One rumor Gammons brought up isn't new to Rays fans. In fact, it's been around for almost three weeks. Gammons suggests the Rays are shopping Elijah Dukes, and in his words it's so the Rays can "get him away from the environment of his Tampa neighborhood." A Dukes trade would make quite a few people happy, including the Rays who are battling the negative image of the club set in by Vince Namoli many many years ago. But a Dukes trade isn't as easy as it sounds.

First of all, it's hard to say exactly what Dukes' value is right now. Couple his off-the-field antics with his .200 average and you have to wonder exactly what you can get in return. At the same time, there's the "what-if?" factor. Dukes has issues on and off the field now, but he is only 22 and soon will turn 23. There is plenty of time for someone to help him mature personally, and for Dukes to improve on the field. The fact that he is tied for second on the Rays with home runs, is sixth in RBI, and tied for fourth in runs scored also has to stick in the back of Andrew Friedman's head. There's plenty of negative to Dukes right now, but there is still so much potential. Still stinging from the casual loss of Josh Hamilton this past winter, Friedman will have to be careful about moving Dukes despite his notorious baggage.

As early as last season, I have said the Rays should make Dukes sound like the greatest outfielder since Willie Mays and then move him. Since then, several obstacles have come up slowing that process down. First was Dukes' seedy past, which is well known to everybody now. Next came the imfamous USA Today article, depicting Dukes as someone who didn't understand what it takes to make it to the big leagues. Third, the constant injuries to Rocco Baldelli have kept the Rays from locking in an "outfield of the future" with Baldelli, Carl Crawford, and Delmon Young. Finally, the allegations made by Dukes' estranged wife only tainted the potential Dukes has as a player. But that potential is still there, and there is likely some GM who wants a rebuilding project that will pay a decent price for it.

The other rumor Gammons floats out is one that will be very unpopular, but one the Rays should strongly considered. Per Gammons, "Teams have called the Rangers about Mark Teixeira, but those talks are on the side for now. The interesting name the Rangers will have on the market come June is Eric Gagne. The Devil Rays will have Al Reyes. Both will create interest because almost every contender is looking for bullpen help." Yes Virginia, Mr. Red Sox wants the Rays to move the only good bullpen arm by July 31st. I say, it might not be a bad idea.

The Rays struck it rich with the Reyes gamble. Coming off Tommy John surgery and not pitching since early 2005, Reyes has looked comfortable as the team's closer all season. The biggest problem though is if Reyes keeps it up, the Rays won't be able to re-sign him at the bargain basement $750,000 they got him at this season. The catch-22 to that situation is even if the Rays did want to dump alot of money on Reyes to keep him around, he's 38. He can only be so good for so long. Moving a 38-year-old closer at the trade deadline, one who can slam the door shut on any situation, could be a huge bargaining chip for the Rays at trade time.

A Reyes trade would be very unpopular, especially with those who just read the stats and think this guy should get a five-year contract right now. But the Rays are not going to win the World Series this year, and the pieces needed to win it in the near future could be had for a stud closer like Reyes. There are plenty of contending teams who need another relief pitcher, and most of those teams have the "on the cusp" youngsters the Rays desire. If that trade were to happen, the cries of "same old Rays" would be shouted as they have the past several years. But depending on what the Rays get in return, it could be one of those deals that turns the tide for this team.

Of course these are rumors right now, but it should be interesting to see if any of them come true before the end of July. Until then, be cautious of where you hear trade rumors from. With the Rays struggling again, anyone with a microphone or TV camera in front of them will start picking apart the Rays roster. Barring some bizarre trade involving the wrong players, this is still a building effort and the Rays will only look to improve this summer.

Other notes from Raysland:

  • Speaking of Reyes, I'm not buying Joe Maddon's "night off" excuse in last night's horrendous loss in Toronto. Reyes last pitched at 6 p.m. Monday. Having him come out at about 10 o'clock the following night should not have been an issue, especially with an "easy win" slipping away. Either Reyes isn't as good as he appears to be, or Maddon still hasn't figured out when to use his closer. Judging by Reyes' performance this season, and Maddon's the past season-and-a-half, I'm siding with Reyes on this one.
  • Oh, and why the hell do you bring in Tim Corcoran to intentionally walk a batter? The bullpen rightfully gets beaten up for not performing well, but it doesn't help when your manager doesn't use the bullpen properly.
  • Help could be on the way in the form of Troy Percival. As reported by Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal, the Rays were one of seven teams in the mix at Percival's most recent workout. The big question is has Percy gotten over the injuries that derailed his career last year, and would he be worth the risk? With four contending teams scouting him, and two not far behind contention, the Rays unfortunately may be outbid with this one.
  • Help in the future could be coming in the form of David Price. Price has received the seal of approval from Fox Sport's Tracy Ringolsby, who says the Rays will finally get a first-round pick right with that selection.
  • Cubs players are publicly saying they're not tired of Lou Piniella's antics, but one has to wonder if that's the truth in Wrigley Field. Piniella, trying to win over long-suffering Cubs fans, started the season like a bull in a china shop and you have to wonder how long he can keep the act up. Piniella's only ticket to the Hall of Fame is as a manager, and if he flames out in Chicago that ticket may go void.
  • Why sports talk on radio and television today sucks: On last night's 6 p.m. Sports Center, an entire segment was devoted to, "Who's better? Roger Clemens, or Randy Johnson?"
  • Why sports talk on radio and television today sucks, part two: My brother-in-law, who wants to become a sportscaster, actually asked me who the greatest quarterback in NFL history was. I continued to eat my dinner and drink my beer.
  • So much for my "Ottawa in five" prediction for the Stanley Cup.
  • Finally, today is a day that should live in infamy, but is dying away with the people who were involved in it. On June 6, 1944, the D-Day invasion on Normandy changed the direction World War II was going in for good, leading to the end of the Axis powers and eventually launching the United States into the world power it is today. Thank a World War II veteran if you can, it may be the last time you can do it.
DISCLAIMER: As of this summer, Matt Sammon is now a part-time, paid employee of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. His views and opinions do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays' ownership, management, players, coaches, or other employees.