ST. PETERSBURG -- As foolish as the idea may seem now, manager Joe Maddon can remember the time when he thought Reid Brignac wasn't going to be a good defensive second baseman: During a late-season game in Baltimore, Brignac was playing second when a ball was hit to his left, and he never reacted to it.
"I'm thinking, 'Oh, this isn't going to work.' I shied away from it the rest of the year," Maddon said. "Now, he's a really, really good second baseman."
Now, there's virtually no question regarding Brignac's talent in the field, especially following the spectacular plays he made this weekend in Cleveland. Maddon has often said Sean Rodriguez might be the best defensive second baseman, and he added Monday that Brignac isn't far behind him -- a sentiment echoed by many of his teammates.
"He's been doing that all year," right-hander James Shields said. "I've watched him in the Minor Leagues growing up and now the big leagues, and I think this guy is a phenomenal defensive player. And I think he's really starting to show how good of an offensive player he is."
Brignac hit .450 (9-for-20) with 10 RBIs on the team's 10-game road trip and more than doubled his career home run total, slamming four round-trippers in six games after hitting just three in his previous 101 games.
Although Maddon said he could see Brignac consistently hitting 10 homers a year, he isn't about to encourage Brignac to consider himself a power hitter.
"I don't ever want him to start thinking that. The Yankee Stadium right field is a nice place for any lefty to hit," Maddon said, referring to Brignac's first-career multihomer game July 17 in New York. "He just has a nice swing going on, and it's been up against the right kind of pitchers for him, too. It worked out pretty well. I don't want him to start thinking that way. There's a natural lift in his swing.
"He's going to hit homers -- he's just naturally going to hit homers. But the moment you start trying to hit homers as opposed to allowing pitchers to throw them, that's when you get into trouble."
Trade-wise, Rays aggressive yet responsible
ST. PETERSBURG -- The week leading up to the Trade Deadline is always busy for Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, and this year has been no exception.
Friedman discussed the team's approach to the July 31 Trade Deadline on Monday, stressing once again that Tampa Bay will aggressively seek out deals that benefit the club. But, he added, the Rays' front office isn't itching to make a trade simply for the sake of making a trade.
"We're working hard not to create the illusion of that player and make sure that it's someone we really want," Friedman said. "There are certain guys who fit that description, and hopefully we'll be able to do something that makes us better.
"You have to fight a little bit of that this time of year -- the emotions involved with doing something like that in the middle of the year. It's easy to not let emotions get involved in the offseason, but when you're mired in it and playing games on a daily basis, it's a lot harder to do that. Our approach then, and our approach now, is to be aggressive and understand that we're giving up long-term value to get short-term value, but doing that in as responsible of a manner as possible."
Friedman said the club was focused solely on adding players who can immediately provide a meaningful impact, and any potential depth issues are more likely to be dealt with in August than July. On the other hand, he said, the Rays are looking to keep their options open and trying not to focus on only one specific player or type of player.
"I guess there are certain areas that are more ideal than others, but it's too hard to find really good players that can really impact your team such that we aren't as limiting," Friedman said. "If you start narrowing it down to, 'It has to be this position and this handedness and this type of profile,' you end up where you potentially have one or zero targets, and that makes the chances of a deal that much more difficult."
Another factor allowing the Rays to focus on a higher-caliber addition, Friedman said, is the wealth of talent in the club's Minor League system. Players like pitcher Jeremy Hellickson, outfielder Desmond Jennings and infielder Dan Johnson can provide additional depth later in the season, freeing up Friedman to seek out a true impact player.
"I think we have really good players in Triple-A that I wouldn't be surprised if they help us win games in 2010. Whether it's in September or in August, I don't know that yet," Friedman said. "We'll get through this Trade Deadline and assess the depth that we have and how it may fit for us going forward."
Trade Deadline of little concern to Crawford
ST. PETERSBURG -- Before the season, Carl Crawford said he wasn't going to let his impending free agency or the potential of him being traded distract his current team.
Crawford has proven to be a man of his word, as the All-Star left fielder's name hasn't been brought up in any trade rumors surrounding the Rays as Saturday's Trade Deadline approaches.
"I just hoped we'd be winning, so I didn't have to go through all that stuff," Crawford said. "It's already tough to play, then having to go through that -- I'm sure it would've been even harder. It made things easier for myself and the team.
"Everything's been going according to plan, and hopefully we can keep doing well and just continue to move forward and get better as a team."
Crawford and the rest of the players in Tampa Bay's clubhouse have been relatively at ease as the Deadline draws near, something manager Joe Maddon largely attributed to the team's success this year.
"I don't think that our club gets caught up in that. I haven't really gotten that vibe from them," Maddon said. "We haven't had a bunch of our names bandied about as far as trades leaving us. There's not a whole lot of worry from us going away. We've played to a pretty good record at this point, so the guys have done a nice job. Of course you're always looking to make yourself better, but we also have guys in the Minor Leagues that we like, too. I haven't gotten a real sense of concern or a sense that we need something from the group. I think they've been pretty good with the whole moment right now."
Maddon isn't getting caught up in the idea of a potential trade, either. He said he was happy with the team that takes the field night-in and night-out, although he would obviously be in favor of a move that gave the Rays a better chance to win.
"This might sound too simplistic," Maddon said, "but at the end of the day, my job is to come out here and worry about or deal with what's out here and try to make this work."
Much like Maddon, Crawford said he was happy with Tampa Bay's roster as it is now, but he wouldn't turn down the opportunity to play with someone who will increase the team's chances of making it back to the World Series.
"I don't think we're about to turn down help," Crawford said. "Everybody needs help. But we have a good team here. We feel like we can do it either way, but a little extra help never hurt anybody."
Adam Berry is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.