Winners and losers at the trade deadline

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One person’s thoughts on who made out best and worst at the trade deadline.

Winners

Texas Rangers: GM Jon Daniels wasn’t interested in parting with third baseman Mike Olt, much less shortstop Jurickson Profar, in order to counter the Angels’ Zack Greinke pickup, but he was able to keep his best prospects and land Ryan Dempster anyway. All Dempster has done in 104 innings this season is amass a 2.25 ERA, good for second in the NL. I’m less enthused with acquiring the struggling Geovany Soto to replace Yorvit Torrealba in the catching tandem, but there’s some upside there. The Rangers will get Neftali Feliz back (uhh, scratch that, Tommy John surgery coming) and they have the option of moving Alexi Ogando to the rotation if things don’t work out with Roy Oswalt, so I’m feeling better about their chances of staying ahead of the Halos in the NL West.

Miami Marlins: Deciding to hold on to Josh Johnson, the Marlins made a couple of smaller deals before the deadline and did well in both. In getting Zack Cox from the Cardinals for reliever Edward Mujica, they picked up a guy who would have been a top 10 overall pick in the 2010 draft if not for his bonus demands. Cox has been something of a disappointment in the minors, particularly in batting .254/.294/.421 in Triple-A this year, but he’s hit for very good averages in the past and there should be more power on the way. He should get a look at third base in September. The Marlins also traded Gaby Sanchez to Pittsburgh for speedy outfielder Gorkys Hernandez and a draft pick that will probably end up around 40th overall.  Hernandez is a fifth outfielder, but that’s a nice return for someone who wasn’t in the Marlins’ future plans. Logan Morrison needs to be their 2013 first baseman.

Pittsburgh Pirates: Time will tell whether the Pirates got better with their trades Monday and Tuesday; they certainly got more interesting with Travis Snider in ight field and Sanchez replacing Casey McGehee in the first base platoon. Snider hasn’t been quite as much of a disappointment as everyone thinks — he has a .248/.306/.429 line and 31 homers in 835 at-bats — and he’s just 24 years old. Sanchez is a career .298/.390/.488 hitter against lefties. He’s been way off this year, but if the Pirates can get him straightened out, he’ll be a nice part-timer. Again, I’m not sold on the moves — Brad Lincoln was looking pretty good since a switch to the pen — but factor in the Wandy Rodriguez pickup last week and they belong in the winners category.

Casey McGehee: From starting against lefties only on a still relatively anonymous team in a ballpark that punishes right-handed hitters to a wide-open corner infield situation on the game’s most celebrated team in a ballpark that loves everyone. McGehee was one lucky dog, getting to go from the Pirates to the Yankees for reliever Chad Qualls. The Yankees figure to use him primarily against lefties, too, but with Alex Rodriguez out, Mark Teixeira’s wrist still a bit iffy and Eric Chavez always a possibility to spontaneously combust, it’s a great situation for him.

Kansas City Royals: I thought the Royals’ asking price for Broxton would go unmet, but the Reds surprisingly coughed up enough talent to satisfy them in left-hander Donnie Joseph and right-hander J.C. Sulbaran. Joseph ranked as one of the game’s better relief prospects, having struck out 68 and posted a 1.72 ERA in 52 1/3 innings between Double- and Triple-A. He could help right away. Sulbaran is 7-7 with a 4.04 ERA and a 111/54 K/BB ratio in 104 2/3 IP for Double-A Pensacola. He might be a reliever, too, but he has mid-rotation potential if his secondary pitches come along.

San Francisco Giants: The Giants didn’t get the reliever they needed, so they wouldn’t quite get an A grade here. Still, picking up Hunter Pence at a modest price tag is a win. Pence should be a significant upgrade getting at-bats that were going to Gregor Blanco and Nate Schierholtz, and the Giants will no longer be reduced to having Angel Pagan bat fifth. Catcher Tommy Joseph was the only major piece the Giants gave up, and he had Buster Posey and Hector Sanchez ahead of him anyway.

Losers

Arizona Diamondbacks: Lots of smoke, no fire. Caught in between deciding whether they were buyers or sellers, the Diamondbacks kept Justin Upton, Stephen Drew and all of their top pitching prospects, instead making only a minor deal to acquire reliever Matt Albers and outfielder Scott Podsednik from the Red Sox for reliever Craig Breslow. It’s not a bad move — Albers is serviceable and Podsednik adds protection in case an outfielder gets hurt — but the Diamondbacks wasted a chance to set themselves up better for either the present or the future.

Minnesota Twins: The Twins got next to nothing for Francisco Liriano from the White Sox last week and then did nothing at the deadline, even though they had Josh Willingham, Denard Span and Glen Perkins all in demand. The major league team is going nowhere fast and the minor league system rates among the bottom third in the game, so this was absolutely the wrong path for GM Terry Ryan and company to take.

Philadelphia Phillies: At least the Phillies tried; I just don’t think they did all that well in their returns for Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino, Pence especially. They’re going to need a whole lot of help offensively next year, and the money they saved will only go so far. If they could have turned around and traded for Chase Headley, I would have been more impressed. Of course, they could always try that this winter.

Young Blue Jays say they aren’t intimidated by top seed Rays

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) When the Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays opened the pandemic-delayed season a little over two months ago, there was little to indicate the AL East rivals might meet again to begin the playoffs.

While the Rays launched the truncated 60-game schedule with expectations of making a strong bid for their first division title in a decade, the Blue Jays generally were viewed as an immensely talented young team still years away from postseason contention.

Tampa Bay didn’t disappoint, shrugging off a slow start to go a league-best 40-20 and claim the No. 1 seed in the AL playoffs that begin Tuesday.

Lefty Blake Snell, who’ll start Game 1 of the best-of-three wild-card series against Toronto at Tropicana Field, also isn’t surprised that the eighth-seeded Blue Jays earned a spot, too.

The Rays won six of 10 games between the teams during the regular season, but were outscored 48-44 and outhomered 17-11.

And while Toronto (32-28) lacks the playoff experience Tampa Bay gained last season when the Rays beat Oakland in the AL wild-card game before falling to Houston in the divisional round, the Blue Jays are building with exciting young players such as Cavan Biggio, Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

“They’ve got a lot of young guys who can ball over there,” Snell said. “It’s going to be fun to compete and see how we do.”

Rays defensive whiz Kevin Kiermaier said Tampa Bay, in the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the second time franchise history, will not take the Blue Jays lightly.

“We know we’re playing a real good team,” Kiermaier said. “It’s not going to be easy, regardless of what a team is seeded.”

The Blue Jays, who’ll start right-hander Matt Shoemaker, aren’t conceding anything.

Bichette said he and his teammates respect how good Tampa Bay is, but are not intimidated by facing the No. 1 seed.

“I would say that we didn’t care who we played. I would say that we didn’t mind playing Tampa, that’s for sure. We’re familiar with them. We’ve played them well,” Bichette said.

“I think we’re confident in our ability against them. Our talent matches up well,” Bichette added. “We think if we play well we’ve got a good chance.”

NO FANS

The stands at Tropicana Field will be empty, leaving players to wonder what the atmosphere will be like for the playoffs.

Tampa Bay routinely rank at or near the bottom of the majors in attendance, but usually pack the stands in the domed stadium during the postseason.

“It will be different,” Bichette said. “Normally when you think of your first postseason you think 40,000, you think about not being able to think it’s so loud, stuff like that.”

The Blue Jays open the playoffs near where they hold spring training in Dunedin, Florida. It’s been a winding road for Toronto, which played its home games in Buffalo, New York, at the site of its Triple-A affiliate after the Canadian government barred the Blue Jays from hosting games at their own stadium because of coronavirus concerns.

CONFIDENT RAYS

Tampa Bay’s five-game loss to Houston in last year’s divisional round was a source of motivation during the regular season.

“It definitely lit a fire under everybody. It really showed us we belong. … We gave them a tough series,” second baseman Brandon Lowe said.

“We won the wild-card game. We belong in the postseason. I think that did a lot for us to understand that we should be in the postseason and we can go a lot farther. We know what to expect this time around. I think everyone in our clubhouse expects to be playing until the end of October,” he said.

CLOSE FRIENDS

Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash has the Rays in the playoffs for the second time. His close friend and former Rays third base and bench coach Charlie Montoyo is in his second year as manager of the Blue Jays, who last made the playoffs in 2016.

“Pretty special,” Cash said of his relationship with Montoyo.

“I really learned a lot from him being around him. The way he carried himself. His hand print is throughout this organization,” Cash added. “A pretty big impact and a positive one. … When they clinched I talked to him, we face-timed at 1:30 in the morning. I’m so happy for him.”