The History of the Rays as Sellers at the Trade Deadline Part 8
In 2006, in his first season as Rays general manager, Andrew Friedman made three trades in a seller vein that helped define the future of the Rays. Well, at least two of them did. As we wonder what the Rays will do at the trade deadline, we look back at how even the most well-executed trades can go wrong.
7/31/06: Tampa Bay Devil Rays trade SS Julio Lugo to the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for 3B Joel Guzman and OF Sergio Pedroza.
Andrew Friedman thought he had another steal of a trade. Instead, both sides would rather look the other way if you brought up this deal.
The Rays had gotten extremely lucky on Julio Lugo. Lugo came up in the Houston Astros organization and had a nice rookie year in 2000 in which he posted a .283/.346/.431 line with 10 home runs and 22 stolen bases while working as a bat-first utility player. But Lugo fell apart over the next two-plus seasons for the Astros and after he had just a .246/.338/.292 line through May of 2003, they released him and the Rays scooped him up. The rest of the season, Lugo was the Devil Rays’ starting shortstop and was great, posting a .275/.333/.427 line with 15 homers and 10 stolen bases. Lugo followed it up with a .275/.338/.392 line in 2004 with 7 homers and 21 steals, and then he broke out in 2005, posting a .295/.362/.403 line with 6 home runs and 39 stolen bases. And in his contract year in 2006 at age 30, Lugo continued to play well, posting a .308/.375/.498 line with 12 homer and 18 steals, making him a prime trade candidate at the 2006 trade deadline.
Guzman, just 21 at the time of the trade, was already becoming a living legend. Signed for 2.25 million dollars as a 17 year old back in 2002, the 6’7″ Guzman was drawing Miguel Cabrera comps thanks to prolific raw power and excellent bat speed that gave him the ability to be a well above-average major league third baseman with 30 to 40 home run power. In 2004 at just 19 years old, Guzman worked his way from High-A to Double-A with incredible numbers, posting a .297/.341/.540 line with 33 doubles, 11 triples, 23 homers, 86 RBI, and 9 of 16 bases in 133 games. He did strike out 122 times compared to 34 walks as his patience was never great, but rockets came off his bat and it didn’t seem like it would make too much of a difference. In 2005, Guzman slipped a little bit as he moved up to Double-A, posting a .287/.351/.475 line with 31 doubles, 16 homers, 75 RBI, 7 0f 10 steals, and 128 strikeouts versus 42 walks. Then his slugging percentage continued to drop in Triple-A to begin 2006 even as he moved to the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League as he posted a .297/.353/.464 line with 16 doubles, 11 homers, 55 RBI, 9 of 14 steals, and 72 strikeouts versus 26 walks. He did see time in 8 big league games as well, hitting .211. But despite the warning signs, the D-Rays saw Guzman as a hitter with excellent ability at the plate and the Rays hoped that he could be an anchor of their lineup for years to come (although with Evan Longoria, drafted in 2006, at third base, he was going to end up at first base or in left field).
Pedroza, 22, wasn’t quite at Guzman’s level of prospect but still had promise. Pedroza, a power-hitting outfielder, was the Dodgers’ 3rd round pick in 2005 and had a nice first full season in the pro ranks at Low-A in 2006, posting a .281/.437/.562 line with 24 doubles, 21 homers, 75 RBI, and 73 walks compared to 91 strikeouts in 89 games. He was then promoted to High-A, where he hit .154 with 3 homers prior to this trade. Pedroza, 6’1″, 196 featured big power and good plate discipline, but his problem was a swing that often got too long, leaving him susceptible to strikeouts. He also happened to be an absolutely horrendous outfield defender. Pedroza had many more questions surrounding his game than Guzman, but he had the ability to pair with him and Evan Longoria to give the Rays a trio of big-time power hitters.
Lugo probably should have been traded in the midst of his breakout 2005, but unfortunately, Andrew Friedman was not yet GM. However, Lugo’s continued impressive performance made him still a pretty hot commodity at the deadline and Friedman got an interesting package of players for him. Guzman had the obvious warning signs, but his talent was so evident and he was still so young, and he had superstar upside. Pedroza was truly a throw-in in the deal, but if the D-Rays were lucky, they would end up with two great power hitters. In a perfect world, Friedman wound has wound up with a prospect with a higher floor in this deal, at least in terms of the throw-in. But Guzman’s upside was too much to pass up. Guzman was a worthwhile gamble for Friedman in this deal, and neither side made a bad trade. The Dodgers got a shortstop for the stretch run while giving up a pair of risky prospects, while the Rays gave up a decaying asset and received a player in Guzman with the potential to provide huge value to their ballclub going forward in addition to another possible contributor in Pedroza.
As it turned out, Lugo was a disaster in LA, posting just a .219/.278/.267 line with no homers and just 6 of 11 stolen bases in 49 games. Lugo then signed a three year deal with the Red Sox and actually hit 8 homers and stole 33 bases in 2007 but posted just a .237/.294/.349 line and was never again the player he was over the course of his last two years in Tampa Bay, moving on to St. Louis, Baltimore, and then Atlanta before retiring following the 2011 season at age 36. Guzman’s warning signs turned out to be his downfall as he played in 16 games with the Rays in 2007 but never did return as his lack of plate discipline was exploiting by upper-levels pitching. Guzman has played in the Nationals, Orioles, and Reds organizations since then along with an unsuccessful stint in Japan and now the Mexican League in 2012 after the Reds released him. Guzman is still just 27 years of age.
Pedroza was the throw-in as a part of this deal, but what happened to him may be the most interesting. Pedroza had his flaws offensively, but the Rays hoped to resolve his defensive issues by finding him a set position in a new place. They decided to try Pedroza at catcher in 2007 and he seemed like a possible fit thanks to his strong arm and solid athleticism. Unfortunately, it completely fizzled, and when Pedroza’s lack of bat speed sapped his power at Double-A in 2008, the Rays cut ties with him. Pedroza spent 2 years in independent ball before signing with the Marlins organization, where he spent a year and a half before getting released. Pedroza is currently back in independent ball with the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs. He’s still only 28.
Friedman and the Dodgers both get a wash for this one as basically the worst-case scenarios happened all around. Each made a move aimed towards helping their team, and neither worked out. Sometimes even when a trade looks like a win-win, everyone can lose. Both sides had the right idea, but just every player involved fizzled out. Not every trade can come together perfectly, not even for either team, and you just have to live with it.