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Tampa Bay Rays: A Look Back at the 1997 Expansion Draft

BOSTON - APRIL 11: The Boston Red Sox celebrate their 2004 World Series Championship during a pre-game ceremony prior to the game against the New York Yankees at Fenway Park on April 11, 2005 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Red Sox won 8-1. (Photo by Ezra Shaw /Getty Images)
BOSTON - APRIL 11: The Boston Red Sox celebrate their 2004 World Series Championship during a pre-game ceremony prior to the game against the New York Yankees at Fenway Park on April 11, 2005 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Red Sox won 8-1. (Photo by Ezra Shaw /Getty Images) /
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ST. LOUIS – OCTOBER 27: The Boston Red Sox celebrate after winning game four of the 2004 World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium on October 27, 2004 in St. Louis, Missouri. The Red Sox defeated the Cardinals 3-0 to win their first World Series in 86 years. (Photo by Ron Vesely/MLB Photos via Getty Images) /

Major League Baseball never made the list of protected players public but Peter Gammons uncovered a few tidbits in this article from 2001. With hindsight being 20/20, here’s a look at some interesting names that could have been Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 1998.

John Rocker was left unprotected in the expansion draft by the Atlanta Braves. He would go on to make his debut for the Braves that season and impressed with a 2.13 ERA in 38.0 innings. Rocker would become the Braves closer for the next three seasons. There was some controversy, you may recall.

Torii Hunter was unprotected in the first round by Minnesota, but luckily for the Twins, they lost Brent Brede instead of Hunter. Torii would go on to win nine Gold Gloves and make five All-Star appearances.

Derek Lowe had only pitched 16.0 major-league innings for the Red Sox prior to this draft. He was left unprotected in the first round but lost Jeff Suppan in the first round to Arizona instead of Lowe. Both were good players, but Lowe ended up making two All-Star appearances and finished third in Cy Young voting in 2002 going 21-8 with a 2.58 ERA for the Sox. Lowe would help the Red Sox win their first World Series in 86 years in 2004. He went 3-0 that postseason and gave up just four earned runs in 19.0 innings.

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Other notable players left unprotected includes Bret Boone, Richie Sexson, Freddy Garcia, Jose Vidro, Todd Zeile, and Eric Karros. There are a lot of players that would end up playing key roles in the revitalization of the Red Sox franchise such as the aforementioned Derek Lowe, Trot Nixon, and Jason Varitek. Again, hindsight is 20/20, but it’s interesting to see some of the names that both teams ended up missing out on.

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