Would the 2008 season have ended the same way if the Tampa Bay Rays acquired Jason Bay at the trade deadline? Would they have been champs?
For a few minutes at the trade deadline in 2008, it seemed like Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Jason Bay was on his way to the Trop to be a part of the Tampa Bay Rays’ playoff run. At 2:11 p.m. ET, Bill Chastain of mlb.com reported that a deal was done sending Reid Brignac and Jeff Niemann to Pittsburgh for Bay.
At the time, this trade meant big news in Tampa Bay. The Rays looked like contenders and they were willing to make a big deal to push them over the hump. But then, about a half-hour later, mlb.com’s Jonathan Mayo threw water on the fire. Out about as quickly as it burned. The trade had not been finalized. It was reported that the Pirates were holding out for more than Jeff Niemann. Their crystal ball was seemingly working quite well that afternoon.
There’s no doubt, at that time in his career, Jason Bay was prime to make an impact in the playoff run. He did it with the Boston Red Sox instead of the Rays. In the remaining 49 games of that season, he hit nine home runs for Boston while slashing .293/.370/.523. On the other hand, Niemann and Brignac played bit parts for the Rays down the stretch and did not make the postseason roster. So, the success of the Rays that season was certainly not helped by the trade falling through.
But, Jason Bay should have certainly helped the Rays. Most likely, he would have ended up taking at bats from the likes of Gabe Gross, Jonny Gomes and Justin Ruggiano. It’s easy to ask what could have been.
Jason Bay would have been nice, but at what cost?
Let’s just accept that the Pirates wanted more than Jeff Niemann. What if the arm they wanted was Wade Davis? What if the Rays felt that the 2008 run was worth more than Davis? Just think about how different the Rays would look today if that would have made the trade work. The Wade Davis domino has been played several times since 2008. After an awesome showing in the minors, Davis did reasonably well in the majors for the Rays. Along with James Shields, he was a key piece in the trade that acquired Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi and Mike Montgomery.
The names that get caught up in the Wade Davis web are plentiful. Beyond that original trade, you can tie in names from Trea Turner to Steven Souza, Jr. to Erasmo Ramirez. Most important to today, the Rays probably wouldn’t have Jake Bauers if it weren’t for the life-cycle of Davis.