LAKE BUENA VISTA — Carlos Peña signed with the Cubs on Wednesday, and Jason Bartlett appeared headed to the Padres in a trade for two relievers.
But the most stunning departure came later, when now former Rays star leftfielder Carl Crawford agreed to a deal with the rival Red Sox. Crawford struck a seven-year deal worth $142 million, 10th largest in baseball history, with an annual average of $20.3 million, according to the Boston Globe and other reports.
Though everyone involved with the Rays knew Crawford was leaving as a free agent after nine stellar seasons, having him go to the rival Red Sox — and having to face him 18 times a season through 2017 — will make for quite a long farewell.
Bartlett seemed to be saying his goodbyes Wednesday night, when there was news, names and even reaction quotes from across the globe as a deal appeared to send him to San Diego.
Except there wasn't a trade.
Though there still might be, as soon as today.
And under the same terms, with the Rays getting lefty Cesar Ramos and right-hander Adam Russell as candidates for openings in their bullpen.
It sounds confusing, and it was. And still is, with the deal — first reported in Twitter posts from the Padres team website — at least put on hold temporarily for reasons unknown, which could be contractual, financial, medical or other.
The only word from the Rays was spokesman Rick Vaughn saying that reports of the trade were "premature" and there was nothing to announce.
Bartlett, who is vacationing in Hawaii, was certainly confused. He got word of the reports and — even though he hadn't heard from either team — assumed, after more than a week of rumors, they were true.
So when contacted by the St. Petersburg Times, he replied via text message: "I knew it was eventually coming. I prepared myself with my family. We are very happy and excited to start a new chapter of my career."
And Reid Brignac, who is in line to take over as the Rays shortstop, quickly posted his reaction on his Twitter account (@reidbrignac) and also spoke to the Times, saying he was "ecstatic" and "super happy for the opportunity."
He likely still will get it, as the Rays talked with several teams about trading Bartlett, 31, who will make more than $5 million and is a free agent after 2011.
If the deal goes through as is, the Rays will get two pitchers who have had limited opportunity, and not much success, at the big-league level.
Ramos, 26, was a first-round pick in 2005 who has pitched in only 19 big-league games, going 0-2 with a 6.26 ERA. He spent most of 2010 at Triple-A Portland, going 6-7 with a 3.28 ERA in 30 games, including 15 starts.
Russell, 27, acquired from the White Sox in the Jake Peavy trade, is a 6-foot-8, 250-pound hard thrower who is 7-1, 4.50 in 49 big-league games. He spent most of 2010 in Portland (4-9 with 14 saves and a 4.88 ERA).
The Bartlett situation wasn't the only topic of speculation involving the Rays, with executive vice president Andrew Friedman saying he had one or two deals in the works.
Most prominent were dispatches of several teams expressing interest in starter Matt Garza, and one report going as far to say there was a four-team competition to acquire him.
But with little interest in trading starters, the Rays were just responding to inquiries, which they received on several. Manager Joe Maddon was somewhat amused at the reports, then dismissed them, saying, "Matt Garza will be pitching for us."
Crawford, 29, was heavily pursued by the Angels, who reportedly offered $108-million over seven years. He had dinner Tuesday with Yankees general manager Brian Cashman.
But he struck a deal with Boston, overshadowing Jayson Werth's seven-year, $126 million contract with the Nationals. An official announcment, pending a physical, could come today.
With the addition of Crawford and first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, the Red Sox are significantly improved. "They have made some serious improvements,'' Cashman told the YES Network. "They are going to make it tough on us."
The Rays get Boston's first-round pick in the 2011 draft and a compensation pick.
Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]es.com.