I wondered if my rambling thoughts deserved their own post, but that's what the internet is for, right?
To hardcore Rays fan, we've become accustom to handling the trade rumors around the team. As mentioned a few weeks ago, the roller coaster of emotions will be a rough ride this month, but we should know by now what to expect. The Rays will be "in" on a lot of players, but ultimately will only make a deal only on their own terms.
The Cliff Lee deal is a perfect example of this. The thought of Lee anchoring a Rays' rotation is a wonderful one. It would push all our starters back a spot, and similar to a bullpen chain, Lee would strengthen the entire rotation. Naturally, when the team is one of a handful interested, our hopes become elevated. Also naturally, when a deal is not made a little wind is let out of our sails.
Some fans will see Justin Smoak and the package of prospects given for Lee and say "oh man, we could've topped that." This is true. The Rays have the ability to top nearly any prospect package, but that doesn't make it the right deal. I have even heard some say things like "Justin Smoak? That's it? Dude is hitting .208. Just give them Carlos Pena and Wade Davis for Lee." That may work in fantasy baseball, but in reality, a package of Pena and Davis wouldn't net you Smoak, let alone Lee.
We now know, the Mariners negotiations with the Rays started with Desmond Jennings. They most likely ended right there for a few reasons. When the Yankees were rumored to be close to getting Lee, a few said it had nothing to do with money. In terms of the actual deal, it was not a factor. Lee is very affordable. However, I do believe money was an underlying factor.
Say Jesus Montero is the heir apparent to Jorge Posada and the Yankees trade him. With the available amount of money they have, they can simply go on the open market and sign the best available catcher. In another sign of how money is a factor, the Yankees did not see Lee as a rental. They have the money to re-sign him, and acquiring him mid-season would mean they wouldn't have to surrender draft picks to sign him in the off-season. This is the business model that works for them.
The process is much different for the Rays. In a perfect world the team would have enough money to sign Carl Crawford, or even Lee, to an extension. This would allow them to move a stud like Jennings. However, that is just not the case. Say the team did move Jennings + three prospects for Lee; we would be without Crawford, Lee, Jennings, and whatever other prospects in just a few months, and then what? Sure, Lee would enhance the Rays chances at a World Series, but he wouldn't guarantee it.
And this is the difficult decision Andrew Friedman must make on a daily basis. How much is too much? What is considered mortgaging the future for the present? Personally, Jennings + three for Lee, is too rich for my blood, but that's just me.
Ultimately, the result of the trade rumors and the trade deadline may leave many unhappy. Some will even say the team isn't committed to winning unless they make a blockbuster deal. However, when you attempt to understand the process, sometimes not making the deal shows a bigger commitment to winning than making it.