Monday, September 24, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Former Rays key contributors on many postseason teams

CHICAGO — The Rays, for reasons that in retrospect seem less wise now, decided at the end of spring training to send first baseman James Loney and catcher Rene Rivera on their way, most expenses paid.

Want to know how they're doing now?

Check out the Mets, as they battle this weekend to win a NL wild-card spot, with Loney, Rivera and 2015 Rays shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera all playing key roles.

As the Rays head home after the regular season mercifully ends Sunday, for a number of their ex-mates, the fun will have just begun.

Players who wore the Rays uniform, including a handful this season, dot the teams that are in, or battling this weekend to get into, the playoffs that start Tuesday. So are a few coaches, a certain bespectacled manager and a front-office boss.

As if the Cubs don't have enough burden of history in trying to win their first World Series since 1908, they also have the most uniformed personnel who are former Rays. Whether that makes you cheer more for them or against is personal, kind of like deep-dish or thin-crust pizza.

Going just by former players, the highest ex-Rays (and, in one big-name case, Devil Rays) factor would go to the Blue Jays and the Mets. Count a couple of former Tampa Bay minor-leaguers and you can add the Dodgers, who are run by former Rays exec Andrew Friedman.

Or if you think the key to success is not having any ex-Rays, then root, root, root for the Tigers or Cardinals or Astros.

Here is a team-by-team breakdown, ranked from the highest ex-Rays factor:

1. Cubs

PLAYERS: RHP Jason Hammel, LHP Mike Montgomery, 2B Ben Zobrist

STAFF: Manager Joe Maddon, pitching coach Chris Bosio, assistant hitting coach Eric Hinske, bench coach Dave Martinez

BASELINE: Zobrist is by far the most relevant player of the group, but so much about the Cubs stems from Maddon's personality and his way of doing things. With Martinez at his side, that kind of makes them an updated and improved model of those Rays teams from back when they made the playoffs, like 2008-13.

2. Mets

PLAYERS: SS Asdrubal Cabrera, INF/OF Kelly Johnson, 1B James Loney, C Rene Rivera

STAFF: Manager Terry Collins

BASELINE: In addition to his usual solid defense, Cabrera has been an offensive force, with 23 homers and a torrid September. Loney and Rivera proved to be valuable fill-ins given other injuries, providing smooth glove work and key hits.

3. Dodgers

PLAYERS: LHP J.P. Howell, LHP Scott Kazmir, LHP Adam Liberatore, OF Andrew Toles

STAFF: Baseball operations president Andrew Friedman, 1B coach George Lombard

BASELINE: Friedman has taken some heat since taking over before the 2015 season, but they've made the playoffs twice. When healthy, Kazmir is a key part of the rotation. Howell and Liberatore (who made it to Triple A with the Rays before being traded) are their top LH relievers. Toles, released from the Rays' minor-league system, has been a surprise contributor.

4. Blue Jays

PLAYERS: RF Jose Bautista, RHP Joaquin Benoit, C Dioner Navarro, OF Melvin (B.J.) Upton

BASELINE: Bautista, briefly a Devil Ray in 2004, is a cornerstone in the lineup. In-season pickups Upton (who has been playing left), Navarro (backup to Russell Martin) and Benoit (who is sidelined temporarily after hurting his leg running out of the bullpen) have all been helpful pieces.

5. Red Sox

PLAYERS: C Ryan Hanigan, LHP David Price

BASELINE: After a slow start, Price is living up to his ace status and $217 million contract, though he took some heat for faltering in a potential clincher. Hanigan has had injury issues, as he did with the Rays, but does some good behind plate.

6. Indians

PLAYERS: C Chris Gimenez, OF Brandon Guyer

STAFF: Pitching coach Mickey Callaway, assistant hitting coach Matt Quatraro

BASELINE: Guyer has been a hit, in several ways, since being acquired from the Rays for two minor-leaguers, with a .333 average and .901 OPS. Gimenez is a capable backup.

7. Giants

PLAYERS: LHP Matt Moore, RHP Alberto Suarez

BASELINE: Moore is 5-5, 4.48 in 11 starts since his Aug. 1 trade for the package headlined by Matt Duffy, including a near no-hitter on Aug. 25. Suarez, a longtime Rays minor-leaguer, has pitched in as a starter and reliever.

8. Rangers

PLAYERS: RHP Matt Bush, C Robinson Chirinos

BASELINE: Bush, who was in camp with the Rays when he was arrested after a DUI crash, has been a huge surprise, going 7-2, 2.52 in 57 appearances. Chirinos, when healthy, has been a solid backup after being ditched by the Rays in April 2013.

9. Nationals

PLAYER: C Jose Lobaton

BASELINE: Lobaton has been a capable backup since being acquired in the spring 2014 deal for Nathan Karns but will have an increased role given the injury to Wilson Ramos. SS-turned-OF Trea Turner and RHP Joe Ross were briefly Rays property after being acquired from San Diego in the Wil Myers deal and shipped to Washington for Steven Souza Jr., but they will play key roles and might be future stars.

10. Mariners

PLAYERS: RHP Nathan Karns, INF Shawn O'Malley

BASELINE: Karns, traded during the winter in the Brad Miller deal, went from the rotation to the bullpen to the DL. O'Malley, who spent seven years in the Rays system, is a backup.

11-13. Cardinals, Orioles, Tigers

No active players or coaches, as ex-Rays INF Steve Pearce, traded at the deadline to the Orioles, is on the DL after having elbow surgery. Of note, Cardinals 2B Kolten Wong is the older brother of Rays prospect Kean Wong.

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