The Rays have a lot of options in play for what they’re going to do at the July 31st MLB Trade Deadline. Will they be buyers? Will they be sellers? One thing they won’t do: give away players for absolutely nothing but cash. Let’s look at a few cases in their history where the Rays did just that. Get ready to cringe.
7/31/03: Tampa Bay Devil Rays trade RHRP Al Levine to the Kansas City Royals for cash considerations.
For some background in case you may have forgotten, 2003 was the year where the Kansas City Royals went on a remarkable run to finish above .500 for the only time since 1993, and they wound up finishing 7 games back in the AL Central. Accordingly, for the only time since anyone can remember, the Royals were buyers at the deadline. The D-Rays were most certainly sellers.
When you see a trade like this, you assume that the player in question was a complete afterthought. That was frankly not the case. Levine, 35 at the time of the trade, was a solid reliever for the Anaheim Angels from 1999 to 2002, posting a 3.46 ERA in 217 appearances, 210 in relief. Levine was never overpowering and was more of a groundball guy with his sinker-slider combination, but he managed to succeed. 2003 was no exception after he signed with the Devil Rays as a free agent. Levine posted a 2.90 ERA in 36 appearances and 49.2 IP with the D-Rays prior to this “trade.” After the Royals acquired him, he posted a 2.53 ERA in 18 appearances and 21.1 IP. Chuck LaMar and the D-Rays really couldn’t manage get a single player in exchange for Levine? That’s pretty pathetic. Levine was out of baseball after the 2005 season, but that doesn’t make this any better.
11 months later, the D-Rays gave another player to the Royals for free. You’re quite familiar with him, although no one truly was at that time.
6/28/04: Tampa Bay Devil Rays trade OF Jose Bautista to the Kansas City Royals for cash considerations.
Four teams still shake their heads about letting Jose Bautista slip right through their fingers and everybody has to wonder why no one selected him until the 20th round of the 2000 MLB Draft. At the 2003 Winter Meetings, the Baltimore Orioles made the genius move of selecting Bautista from the Pittsburgh Pirates in the Rule 5 Draft, although the catch was that Bautista would have to remain on their roster all season for them to keep him. Bautista played both right field and third base for the O’s, and he even hit .273. But they gave him just 12 plate appearances before putting him on waivers, where the D-Rays scooped him up.
Even if he couldn’t hit at all, doesn’t Bautista sound exactly like a Rays waiver claim? He can play the corner outfield spots and third base, a pretty diverse set of positions, and he has a little pop. If the Rays had seen Bautista fall into their laps in 2008 or later, or even 2006 or later with the Sternberg-Silverman-Friedman regime in place, maybe the Rays give Bautista some starts, he breaks out a la Ben Zobrist, and the Rays sign him to a team-friendly extension as he teams up with Evan Longoria, Zobrist, Carlos Pena, and Matthew Joyce to give the Rays one of the best power-hitting lineups in baseball and along with their pitching make them one of the best teams in baseball. Unfortunately, the previous Rays leadership was not nearly as smart, giving Bautista just 15 plate appearances, with Bautista hitting .167, before letting him go to the Royals. 15 plate appearances! He even walked 3 times versus 7 strikeouts! Maybe Bautista wouldn’t have impressed even if they did give him an actual chance. Maybe the D-Rays lineup was just too good- oh wait, they finished dead last in the AL in batting average and OBP. Genius.
All that being said, you can’t really blame anyone for giving up on Bautista. His improvement with the Blue Jays has been really remarkable.
The Rays actually did give away a player at the deadline as recently as last season, but that was under different circumstances.
7/28/11: Tampa Bay Rays trade INF Felipe Lopez to the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for cash considerations.
Lopez was an established player, but this situation was completely different. Lopez had seen big league time earlier in the season when Evan Longoria was out, but he was in Triple-A at the time of this deal. Lopez has nice versatility, but the Rays somehow knew that he was done. Lopez hasn’t played in 2012 after hitting .208 in 48 games between the Rays and Brewers in 2011. When you give away a relatively well-known guy like the Rays did here, you know that there’s something seriously wrong with him. Secondarily, the Rays gave Lopez a shot in another organization because they respected him but he had absolutely no shot to make an impact with the team the rest of the season. This was actually an irrelevant deal despite the recognizable player involved.
Unless the Rays decide to do a favor for a guy stuck at Triple-A or maybe Brooks Conrad, nothing like this is going to be happening. Don’t worry, Joel Peralta will not be traded to the Mets for cold hard cash or anything along those lines.