The morning after Tampa Bay executive VP Andrew Friedman declared that no one on the Devil Rays’ roster is untouchable, The Tampa Tribune’s Eduardo Encina warns the club should be very careful before allowing anyone else to touch Julio Lugo.

It’s obvious that of all the trading pieces the Rays have swapped this season – third baseman Aubrey Huff, pitcher Mark Hendrickson and catcher Toby Hall – Lugo is the player the organization would most like to retain.

He’s proven his worth this season. Rays manager Joe Maddon called Lugo “the prototypical leadoff hitter.” His .372 on-base percentage leads the team. With 10 homers – despite missing 28 games because of injury – he will likely break his previous career high of 15. If he maintains his .307 average, that will be a career high. His 16 stolen bases could threaten last season’s 39. And he plays an above-average shortstop and serves as the clubhouse’s de facto leader.

Friedman’s mission to stockpile young talent for the future is great, but to ship Lugo, the Rays need a high-level prospect. With all respect to the Mitch Talbots and Ben Zobrists of the world, the Rays need a name we all know.

Rays fans have been finicky when it comes to trades, as they expect every deal to be like the fleecing of the Mets, who sent Scott Kazmir to Tampa Bay.

Obviously, that’s not realistic. And the usual post-trade news conference banter included the oft-used cliche, “You’ve got to give something to get something.”

Well, the Rays have something to give in Lugo.

On the matter of the Kazmir/Zambrano deal, the New York Post’s Mike Vaccaro takes the unusual approach of deeming said transaction, “The Best Bad Trade They Ever Made”. Vaccaro surmises that had the ’04 Mets not gone into the tank shortly after the arrivals of Kazmir and Kris Benson, the sweeping changes to follow (the hirings of Omar Minaya and Willie Randolph, a couple of winters’ worth of free agent signing sprees) might not have turned out nearly the same. Not only will I buy what Vaccaro is selling, but perhaps Jim Duquette can be voted a playoff share this season?

Inspired by Vaccaro’s brave stance, I have a slightly controversial (ahem) position I’d like to take this afternoon. Sidney Ponson’s brutal performance against the Blue Jays today is completely unrelated to the JetSki-enthusiast being a washed-up, dimwitted tub of goo. Rather, it is very difficult to pitch effectively if you’ve been watching highlights all week of your third baseman impersonating Chuck Knoblauch.

Buck Showalter, suffering from dehydration, is missing this afternoon’s Texas/White Sox game. Remember, if you’re thinking of adopting a Showalter, be sure to water him 2 or 3 times a day.