The 10 biggest trades in Rays history

December 1st, 2021

If it seems like the Rays are always wheeling and dealing, that's because they are. Such is life at Tampa Bay, where combating the realities of playing in baseball's smallest market remains a constant challenge.

That often means finding creative ways to churn the roster, mine others across the Majors for potential value, and, generally, make moves. Lots of them. Some will be out-of-the-box. Some will be complicated. Some are bound to surprise.

With this as a backdrop, is taking a look back at the 10 most impactful trades in Rays history.

1) for pieces

Rays got from Twins: RHP Matt Garza, SS Jason Bartlett, RHP Eddie Morlan
Rays gave up: OF Delmon Young, IF , OF Jason Pridle
Date: Nov. 28, 2007

Four years after drafting Young No. 1 overall in the 2003 Draft, the Rays flipped the outfielder after another last-place finish. The pieces they received fueled one of the most dramatic turnarounds in baseball history, as Garza and Bartlett became part of a core that led the Rays to the World Series a year later. Garza spent three seasons as a mainstay near the top of Tampa Bay's rotation, while Bartlett manned shortstop for three (including a highly productive All-Star campaign in 2009). Young never turned into the star he was projected to be. He always hit, but bounced between five teams before finishing an unspectacular -- and, at times, controversial -- career.

2) Garza for Archer

Rays got from Cubs: RHP Chris Archer, C , OF , OF
Rays gave up: RHP Matt Garza, LHP , OF
Date: Jan. 8, 2011

The small-market limitations Tampa Bay has to operate in forced then-GM Andrew Friedman to consistently find creative ways to churn the roster, while balancing both the short- and long-term implications of those moves. That's what made this deal vintage Friedman -- by trading Garza at the height of his value, Friedman turned a rotation stalwart into a future ace in Archer.

3) The deal

Rays got from Astros: UTL Ben Zobrist, RHP Mitch Talbot
Rays gave up: 1B Aubrey Huff
Date: July 12, 2006

Knowing they were unlikely to resign Huff in free agency, the Rays flipped the productive slugger to the Astros for two unheralded prospects in Talbot and Zobrist. Zobrist turned into one of the best players in club history, and came to personify the club's organizational ethos of positional versatility. Houston fell short of the postseason in 2006, and though Huff went on to have some productive seasons for the Orioles and Giants, he left his best days in Tampa Bay.

4) Archer for a haul

Rays got from Pirates: OF , RHP , RHP Shane Baz
Rays gave up: RHP Chris Archer
Date: July 31, 2018

After trade rumors swirled around Archer for years, the Rays finally flipped their ace in a Garza-like deal with the Pirates in July 2018. Tampa was praised in the industry for the haul it received in return, a package full of high-upside prospects ready to contribute immediately at the big league level. Archer left Tampa Bay among the franchise leaders in nearly every major pitching category.

5) A closer in waiting

Rays got from Braves: RHP Rafael Soriano
Rays gave up: RHP
Date: Dec. 11, 2009

An under-the-radar deal that sent infielder Akinori Iwamura to the Pirates for Chavez turned to gold for the Rays when they flipped the journeyman reliever for Soriano, who impressed in his first season closing for the Braves. Iwamura was out of baseball a year later, while Chavez lasted only a half-season in Atlanta. Soriano turned into an All-Star. The 45 games he saved in 2010 -- his only year with Tampa Bay -- set the franchise single-season record at the time.

6) The Kazmir Heist

Rays got from Mets: LHP , RHP Jose Diaz
Rays gave up: RHP Victor Zambrano, RHP Bartolome Fortunato
Date: July 30, 2004

Remembered as a panic (and foolish) move in New York for the way Zambrano flamed out with the Mets, the Rays in return netted Kazmir, one of the top pitching prospects in baseball at the time. The left-hander made two All-Star appearances and pitched to a 3.92 ERA across six seasons with Tampa Bay, before the Rays sent him (and nearly $25 million remaining on his contract) to the Angels in 2009. That deal laid the groundwork for the one that brought , Brad Boxberger and to Tampa in '14.

7) The Deal

Rays got from Giants: IF , OF , LHP Matt Krook, RHP Stephen Woods
Rays gave up: 3B Evan Longoria
Date: Dec. 20, 2017

This deal will always be remembered for the departure of Longoria, the longtime face of the franchise. He left Tampa Bay as the club's all-time leader in games, home runs and RBIs, and with five years (plus a team option) and $88 million remaining on the 10-year extension he signed in 2012. Rays GM Erik Neander called dealing Longoria "in the best long-term interest of our franchise" at the time.

8) Winn for Piniella

Rays got from Mariners: Manager Lou Piniella, IF Antonio Perez
Rays gave up: OF Randy Winn
Date: Oct. 28, 2002

In what's remembered as one of the strangest trades in baseball history, the Rays traded arguably their best everyday player for the rights to Piniella, with hopes that the star manager could build a winner in Tampa for the first time. Piniella came from Seattle, where he helped transform the Mariners into one of the most exciting teams in baseball. But in the sport's smallest market and saddled with flawed rosters, Piniella never replicated that success. He routinely clashed with the front office, and went 200-285 before resigning in September 2005.

9) Part 1

Rays got from Royals: OF Wil Myers, RHP Jake Odorizzi, LHP Mike Montgomery, IF/OF Patrick Leonard
Rays gave up: RHP , RHP
Date: Dec. 9, 2012

The perception of this deal has evolved over time. At first, Myers, one of the top prospects in baseball, was billed as the prize. He went on to win the American League Rookie of the Year Award in 2013, but his impact in Tampa pales compared to those made in Kansas City by Shields and Davis, who helped the Royals to multiple postseason appearances. A failed starter at the time of the deal, Davis turned into an indispensable reliever for Kansas City's 2015 club that won the World Series.

10) Wil Myers Part 2

Rays got from Padres: 1B , C , RHP
Rays got from Nationals: OF Steven Souza Jr., Travis Ott
Rays gave up: OF Wil Myers, LHP , C , RHP Gerardo Reyes
Date: Dec. 19, 2014

Is Myers destined to always be linked to Shields and Davis? Maybe not. There is a chance he ends up being more closely associated with Bauers, whom the Rays acquired when they sent Myers to San Diego a year removed from his impressive rookie campaign. The complicated, three-team swap also netted a package from the Nationals headlined by Souza, who provided immediate offensive impact (63 home runs over three seasons) while Bauers got time to develop.