The Toronto Blue Jays' entire plans for the approaching July 31 non-waiver trade deadline may have been drastically altered, if not shut down, by Sunday's injury news.
Brett Lawrie is likely gone for 4-6 weeks with a broken finger on his right hand, and Jose Bautista is possibly following him to the disabled list with a hamstring issue on his right leg. Before those injuries and during that ugly 3-7 road trip, there was talk the Blue Jays were scouting Rays ace lefty David Price and might have an interest in the multi-talented Ben Zobrist, who can play nearly any position on the diamond. Both players would be an immense help to the Blue Jays, but the odds of either ending up in Toronto are slim and none. It all goes back to that old cliché about not trading within your division.
This is Tampa Bay's 17th year of existence. Over that span, the Devil Rays/Rays have only made four trades within the American League East, and it might even be a stretch to say even one of those was significant. In fact, they have made only one deal apiece with the Yankees and Red Sox.
The Yankees deal goes back over eight years to May 24, 2006. The Yanks bought Nick Green from the Rays. That's it. The Boston trade goes back even further to July 21,1999. The Rays dealt Dominican-born reliever Julio Santana to the Reds Sox for a player to be named later (Will Silverthorn) and cash. Santana spent seven years in the Majors - including a brief stint with Montreal - but never did pitch for the Red Sox after that deal.
The Rays have made three trades with Baltimore but none since August 7, 2009. Arguably the biggest deal between the Rays and O's happened March 29, 1999, when Tampa Bay dealt right hander Jason Johnson to the Orioles for Danny Clyburn and a minor leaguer by the name of Bolivar Volquez. Again, hardly a blockbuster. On August 7, 2007 the Rays picked up catcher Gregg Zahn from the 0's for a player to be named later, named Rhyne Hughes. Zahn was 38 at the time and about a year from calling it a career.
All of which brings us to the Blue Jays. They haven't made a trade with the Rays in nearly 10 years. On December 12, 2004, they sent catcher Kevin Cash to Tampa Bay for right hander Chad Gaudin.
The deal with the Rays that was supposed to have the biggest impact for the Jays happened on July 31, 2000. The Blue Jays looking to add some pitching depth for the stretch run dealt second base prospect Brent Abernathy to the Rays for right hander Steve Trachsel and veteran reliever Mark Guthrie. The deal failed to push Jim Fregosi's Jays over the top.
Overall, if you look at all eight of the deals the Rays have made without their division, only one - the Trachsel-Guthrie for Abernathy trade - actually came on the July 31 deadline. Most of the trades were inconsequential and none involved a star player. The Rays, as mentioned, haven't even made a deal in the East since August 7, 2009, so don't hold your breath waiting for the Jays or any other team in the East to get Price or Zobrist. If either or both are dealt, they're likely wind up in the National League.
The San Diego Padres will be holding a special ceremony this Thursday to honour Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, who passed away after a long battle with cancer. I only had the pleasure of watching him up close and in person three times. The first was at the All-Star game in 1998 at Coors Field in Denver. I was so impressed with his smile, his laugh, his personality and his limitless skill with the bat. I was lucky enough to watch that game from a bunker just below field level in right field. We were able to look thought a glass partition and see Tony Gwynn playing right field right in front of us. It was like we were playing right alongside him on every ball hit to right. It was an unforgettable experience.
I saw him again in the 1998 World Series, where he might have been the best player on the diamond even though the Yankees swept the Padres four straight. In 1999, I was at the final All-Star game of the last century at Fenway Park in Boston. The most incredible moment was watching all the All-Stars gather at the mound before the game when Red Sox legend Ted Williams threw out the ceremonial first pitch from his wheelchair. Tony Gwynn was right at his side. That will always be one of my greatest sporting memories.
The Angels put 42-year-old Raul Ibanez on waivers for the purpose of giving him his unconditional release. If this indeed is the end for Raul as a player, what a career he had. He was a 36th-round draft pick of Seattle back in 1992. He went on to hit .273 for his career with five different organizations with 2019 hits and 3030 homers. He was one of those rare individuals who seemed to get better with age. In 2005, at age 33 he played the entire 162 game schedule. He slugged 29 home runs with Seattle last year at age 41. He also made it to the postseason in five different seasons. If he wants to remain in the game, there are bound to be plenty of organizations willing to give him a chance.
If the Jays are going to stay in playoff contention, they have to pick it up against the East - 47 of their remaining 85 games are against their own division and they have slipped to 15-14 versus the East. Baltimore is a division-best 20-13 against the East, while the Yankees are second at 15-10 and the Jays are third.