When hearing Tampa Bay Rays, many think right away to the way the team wheels and deals. That thought often circles around a star being traded for some prospects. While that seems to be the case more than not, the Rays have made some very beneficial moves in the offseason. They have come via trade and yes, even the occasional free agent signee. Let’s take a look back at the top five offseason Rays acquisitions in the last 20 years.
5. Charlie Morton brings veteran leadership to playoff ready rotation
Deal: Signed December 21, 2o18. 2 years, 30 million.
Following a 90-win season in 2018, the Rays knew a window was opening for this team to compete. A rotation of Cy Young winner Blake Snell and recently acquired Tyler Glasnow was about to get a major upgrade. That upgrade came following the winter meetings when the Rays brought in veteran right-hander Charlie Morton. Morton’s deal was a big “deal” because the Rays don’t spend this kind of money very often. Morton had just finished a successful reinvention of himself in Houston and was sought after by many teams. The deal with the Rays was a dream for both sides as Morton resided in nearby Bradenton. Pitching for a team ready to win and being close to home was a no-brainer.
Morton’s 2019 season was arguably the best of his career. A 16-6 record with a 3.05 ERA and 240 strikeouts was good enough for a top three finish in the AL Cy Young. His two years for the Rays saw two trips to the playoffs, including 2020’s magical run to the World Series.
4. Fernando Rodney saves games as well as his career.
Deal: Signed January 4th, 2012. One year, 2 million dollars
Signing the 34-year-old veteran bullpen journeyman Fernando Rodney was another low-risk, potentially high-reward signing by the Rays. How high? How about 85 saves in two seasons with a league leading 0.60 ERA in 2012 kind of high? In his 2012 campaign, he saved 48 games while giving up FIVE earned runs. A 5.07 strikeout to walk rate was more than double any of his other 16 professional seasons. Simply put, when he entered the game, people expected an arrow to be fired into the sky.
To show how well the Rays do at buying low and selling high, just look at Rodney’s contracts before and after his two-year stint with the Rays. The two seasons with the Rays cost them $4.5 million all together. His previous contract with the Angels was two years, $11 million while his following contract with the Mariners was two years, $14 million. Love it or hate it, the Rays are good at doing business.
3. Carlos Peña’s minor league deal has major impact
Deal: Signed minor league deal on February 1st, 2007. Major league deal April 1st, 2007.
They say luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. If that’s the case, then Carlos Peña and the Rays both struck gold with each other. Peña signed a minor league deal with a spring invite just weeks before spring training. Following his reassignment to minor league camp, opportunity came knocking for Peña just days before opening day. Greg Norton, the Rays primary first baseman and cleanup hitter, was injured on the last day of spring training, and the Rays scrambled to find a replacement. Carlos Peña was not only the easiest answer but the best.
His 2007 season was the chance he needed and he didn’t waste it. 46 home runs and 121 rbi were enough to earn him the Comeback Player of the Year award. He was also rewarded with contract stability with a 3 year, 24 million dollar extension. His 5 seasons, 2007-2010, and 2012 were the defining moments of his career. Many can remember his 2012 return with his first inning grand slam off CC Sabathia and the Yankees. He will always be considered one of the fan favorites.
2. Randy Arozarena comes to Tampa, carries Rays to World Series
Deal: Acquired via trade on January 9th, 2020
Rays receive: OF/DH Jose Martinez and OF Randy Arozarena.
Cardinals receive LHP Mathew Liberatore
When this deal was made, it seemed to be set for an immediate impact with Jose Martinez being a right-handed power bat the Rays needed. Randy Arozarena was figured to be a fourth outfielder option with the potential to play against southpaw pitching. Looking back now, everyone except the Rays front office was fooled. Randy Arozarena is the big piece of the deal and he let everyone know about it when he got the call on August 30th. In 23 games, he hit .281 with seven homers. That was just the appetizer before the postseason meal.
It won’t soon be forgotten what he did in the 2020 postseason. His 10 home runs broke the single postseason record. The best part is, all his home runs were after the wild card series so he actually only needed 18 games to do it. If Arozarena is half as good as he showed he can be then the Rays have certainly knocked it out of the park with this deal. He is under team control through 2027 and will be a mainstay at the top of the lineup for years to come.
1. Matt Garza comes and Matt Garza goes. Both moves prove beneficial.
Deal 1. November 28th, 2007
Rays receive RHP Matt Garza and SS Jason Bartlett from Twins for OF Delmon Young and SS Brendan Harris
These two deals are all rolled into one with the way they impacted the Rays during their first glimpse of winning. Rays fans were shocked when the Rays were open to shopping former first round pick Delmon Young. The Twins were open to bringing on his talent and sent Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett to the Rays.
Matt Garza is regarded as one of the best pitchers to wear a Rays uniform. In 2008, he was a center piece of the Rays World Series run, winning the American League Championship Series MVP. He was the winning pitcher in Game Seven over the Boston Red Sox. His no-hitter in 2010 is still the only one in franchise history.
The other piece in the deal was Jason Bartlett, who with a .286 average and only one home run, was voted on as the team MVP. Just shows you how valuable he was in the eyes of the players. His solid defense and ability to get on base was definitely something the Rays loved about him. In 2009, he made his only All Star appearance, representing the Rays.
Deal 2. January 8th, 2011.
Rays trade: RHP Matt Garza and OF Fernando Perez to Chicago Cubs
Rays receive: RHP Chris Archer, OF Brandon Guyer, OF Sam Fuld, C Robinson Chirinos, SS Hak-Ju-Lee
Another Rays pitcher traded in his prime who again, brought in a huge haul. Five players came for Garza and four of them had an impact on the Rays team. The biggest without a doubt was Chris Archer. While Archer may be best known for his deadline deal, his numbers as a Ray were quite impressive. He was also the ace on the staff during a big rebuild period. The two-time all star was fun to watch during his tenure here.
Brandon Guyer and Sam Fuld both made names for themselves in Rays uniforms. Guyer was a quality outfielder who saw most of his time against left handed pitching. He homered in his first major league at-bat. Fuld was a spark plug player that everyone loved to pull for. He still made one of the best catches in Rays history. Robinson Chirinos is still in the majors and has been a very solid backstop.
As a small market franchise, the Rays are often defined by the moves they make. They can’t spend 100 million on the hottest free agent and won’t trade multiple prospects at the deadline. They aren’t a team people expect to see take much action at the winter meetings, but these five moves were big ones for the success of the team.
Players mentioned: Blake Snell, Tyler Glasnow, Charlie Morton, Fernando Rodney, Carlos Peña, Greg Norton, Jose Martinez, Randy Arozarena, Delmon Young, Matt Garza, Jason Bartlett, Chris Archer, Brandon Guyer, Sam Fuld, Robinson Chirinos