Rays Tales: And the team’s first Hall of Famer will be ...

Evan Longoria and David Price seemed the most likely, but that might not be the case anymore.
Lou Piniella, shown in a 2004 photo, could lead the way to the Hall. (Times file)
Lou Piniella, shown in a 2004 photo, could lead the way to the Hall. (Times file)
Published January 26

ST. PETERSBURG — This has become an annual question with a perpetual lack of an answer:

With now 21 seasons in the books, who will be the first Rays player to make the Hall of Fame?

Not someone who played exclusively for the Rays, but long enough that they would be identified as such, and likely would have the TB cap on their plaque. (The next person going into the Hall who wore a Rays uniform at some point is a different question we will get to shortly.)

3B Evan Longoria seemed their best bet, but the last couple years have not helped, and he’s 33 now and in need of a career resurgence, with the Giants or elsewhere.

Hall candidacy prediction tools on baseball-reference.com don’t give him much chance; a score of 39 on one compared to 100 for a likely inductee, and 25 vs. 50 on another.

LHP David Price might have a better shot, with one Cy Young award and two second-place finishes plus a World Series ring, scoring out at 92 and 37.

But he doesn’t even have 150 career wins yet and also is 33. Plus, he’s been gone 4 ½ years already, and if he continues to have great success in Boston to make the Hall, well, wouldn’t that leave Rays fans seeing red.

Sure, Blake Snell won a Cy Young at age 25. And Willy Adames had a solid couple months to cap his rookie season. But the stark reality is there may be no answer, that that player has not surfaced yet. Plus, with Longoria and Carl Crawford the exceptions, most players aren’t kept around long enough to make a definitive case as Rays.

If you want to make a futures bet, maybe it’s Wander Franco, the uber-prospect who dominated rookie-level play and doesn’t turn 18 until March 1.

Now who will be the next person to go into the Hall who wore a Rays uniform, joining Wade Boggs, who finished as a Devil Ray in 1998-99, and Roberto Alomar, who retired in March 2005 after going through spring training with the Rays?

Absent a major reversal of opinion regarding PEDs-tainted Manny Ramirez, it potentially could be a toss-up between the Tampa tandem of Lou Piniella and Fred McGriff. Piniella, who managed the Devil Rays from 2003-05, and McGriff, who played for them 1998-01 and 2004, are both likely to be considered by the Today’s Game era committee when it next meets in December 2021. Piniella missed by one vote this year.

Joe Maddon, depending on how much longer he manages, and what further success he has with the Cubs (or elsewhere), is another possibility

Spelling relief

Signing a veteran with closing experience seems the safer move, and there remains ample free-agent options. But the Rays may be leaning to sticking with their 2018 philosophy of giving opportunity and use a committee approach with Jose Alvarado, Chaz Roe and Diego Castillo, shifted back from opener duties, who between them have nine big-league saves. “I like the options that we have," manager Kevin Cash said. “Anytime you ask me about pitching I’m always going to say whatever we can do to get more. So we’ve just got to wait and see how spring training unfolds."

Rays Tales

Between the new rule requiring a ticket (printed or mobile device, available at raysbaseball.com/fanfest) and the abrupt switch to cashless sales at the Trop, the Feb. 9 Fan Fest has the potential to be quite interesting, in many ways. … Alex Corddry (now Chappell), the Rays Fox Sports Sun in-game reporter in 2017, was hired to a similar post covering her hometown Nationals. … If the Rays did want to add another proven bat, Ben Zobrist could be an intriguing, and quite popular, option in trade from the Cubs. … An MLB idea to extend DL stints and minor-league option requirements from 10 to 15 days could impact some roster flexibility the Rays (and others) used in keep their bullpen stocked with fresh arms. … Classy of Snell to invite pitching coach Kyle Snyder to New York for the Saturday BBWAA banquet where the Cy Young award is presented, and also for Cash and principal owner Stuart Sternberg to plan to go. … The $500 Fan Fest video game experience with Snell and $25 autographs tickets for CF Kevin Kiermaier and SS Willy Adames sold out quickly. Though not signing, OF Tommy Pham, who made the controversial comments about the Rays having “really no fan base at all," is slated to attend. … Mike Zunino was ninth on MLB Network’s ranking of the top 10 catchers; San Francisco’s Buster Posey first. … Seven Rays made Baseball Prospectus’ list of top 101 prospects, led by teenage phenom SS Wander Franco at No. 10 and RHP Brent Honeywell No. 25. … Though Matt Duffy projects as the starting third baseman, Cash said Yandy Diaz will get time there as well as first, and eventually outfield. … New Hall of Famer Roy Halladay’s cap won’t have a logo, wife Brandy saying the Blue Jays and Phillies both meant a lot to the late pitcher. … T-Mobile is the new naming rights sponsor of Seattle’s stadium and American Family Insurance will replace Miller in Milwaukee in 2021. The Rays will be looking for one if and when they get a new stadium.

Contact Marc Topkin at mtopkin@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.

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