Trades are a big deal for the Rays. Having a majors-high 15 players among their 25-man opening day roster acquired that way illustrates what seems obvious: Their chance for success depends on making good deals.
Executive VP Andrew Friedman has not been shy, orchestrating 53 trades and acquiring 74 players since taking over after the 2005 season.
Some have been big deals, seven- and eight-player packages to maximize the return for starting pitchers such as the one built around Wil Myers and James Shields, which will be revisited this week when the Rays go to Kansas City.
Some have seemed small at the time but with large payoffs. Some were made for whom the Rays got back, some for whom or the contract they got rid of. Some to clear roster space, some for future prospects. And some actually have not worked out at all.
For a variety of reasons - such as the high cost of free agency, an absence of high draft picks due to onfield success - they have to keep dealing to get the kind of top players they need.
"We realize we're priced out of large parts of the free agent market," Friedman said. "We're not building a roster that way, so we're naturally more likely to look at trades to fill out a roster.
"To get back major-league players in trades, it starts with having good major-league players who are in demand. Teams often trade from surplus in order to fortify areas of need, and we've been fortunate that some of our surplus has been in an area of great demand: quality major-league pitching."
That's by design, of course, as is the way some of their deals are related to others.
"You have to go out and be more creative in getting that guy," manager Joe Maddon said. "It's one big, circular, connected concept that Andrew really does well.
"It's not easy, and it takes a lot of planning and foresight."
There are many ways to judge a trade relative to time, money and other factors. But we'll take a simple approach in trying to identify Friedman's six best deals: A look at what the Rays got back for what they gave up.
1. Nov. 28, 2007
PLAYERS: RHP Matt Garza, SS Jason Bartlett and RHP Eduardo Morlan from the Twins for OF Delmon Young, INF Brendan Harris and OF Jason Pridie.
WHY: What the Rays got from Garza and Bartlett, key pieces of their 2008 World Series team, already was pretty good. What they got for them (Garza to the Cubs, see below, Bartlett to the Padres for relievers Brandon Gomes and Cesar Ramos, minor-league INF Cole Figueroa and ex-reliever Adam Russell) made it even better.
2. Dec. 4, 2012
PLAYERS: SS Yunel Escobar from the Marlins for INF Derek Dietrich
WHY: A Gold Glove-caliber, frontline shortstop on a team-friendly deal - and now an extension through 2016 with an option - in exchange for a good-but-not-great prospect barely out of Class A.
July 12, 2006
PLAYERS: INF Ben Zobrist and RHP Mitch Talbot from the Astros for INF Aubrey Huff
WHY: Not even the Rays knew at the time how good Zobrist would be, a two-time All-Star who can play anywhere on the field with a middle-of-the-order bat.
Jan. 8, 2011
PLAYERS: RHP Chris Archer, C Robinson Chirinos, OF Sam Fuld, RHP Brandon Guyer and SS Hak-Ju Lee from the Cubs for RHP Matt Garza, OF Fernando Perez and LHP Zachary Rosscup
WHY: Archer already has shown ace potential, evidenced by last week's $25.5 million contract extension. Fuld was a solid three-year contributor. Guyer is with the Rays now. Chirinos briefly was. Lee is expected to be good when he gets there.
Dec. 9, 2012
PLAYERS: OF Wil Myers, RHP Jake Odorizzi, LHP Mike Montgomery and INF Patrick Leonard from the Royals for RHP James Shields, RHP Wade Davis and INF Elliot Johnson
WHY: The price was high given Shields' prominence. But Myers has the potential to be a rarer find, a young, star-quality position player with legit power, and Odorizzi looks like a rotation replacement.
Dec. 11, 2009
PLAYERS: RHP Rafael Soriano from the Braves for RHP Jesse Chavez
WHY: Soriano became a 2010 All-Star who led the AL with 45 saves in his one season with the Rays. Chavez was acquired for 2B Akinori Iwamura, who was on the way out anyway.
WORTHY OF CONSIDERATION
June 20, 2006: LHP J.P. Howell from the Royals for OF Joey Gathright and INF Fernando Cortez
July 28, 2007: RHP Grant Balfour from the Brewers for RHP Seth McClung
July 28, 2007: RHP Dan Wheeler from the Astros for INF Ty Wigginton and cash.
Dec. 3, 2013: RHP Heath Bell and cash (from the Diamondbacks) and C Ryan Hanigan (from the Reds) for RHP Justin Choate and CF Todd Glaesmann (Diamondbacks)
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The 15 players on the opening day roster acquired in trades:
- RHP Chris Archer (Cubs)
- RHP Heath Bell (D'backs)
- OF David DeJesus (Nationals)
- SS Yunel Escobar (Marlins)
- INF Logan Forsythe (Padres)
- RHP Brandon Gomes (Padres)
- OF Brandon Guyer (Cubs)
- C Ryan Hanigan (Reds)
- OF Matt Joyce (Tigers)
- RHP Josh Lueke (Mariners)
- OF Wil Myers (Royals)
- RHP Jake Odorizzi (Royals)
- LHP Cesar Ramos (Padres)
- INF Sean Rodriguez (Angels)
- 2B Ben Zobrist (Astros)
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The Rays have the most players on their opening day roster acquired in trades:
Research: Rays public relations intern Andrew Tortu
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- The $25.5 million guaranteed, $43.75 million max value extension for RHP Chris Archer is, like others before it, a gamble for both sides. The Rays committed an awful lot to a guy with less than a full year in the majors (27 starts, 10 wins) to get cost-certainty and two extra years of control. Archer got immediate, immense financial security at the potential expense of future earnings given how, for example, the $9 million he would be making in 2020 could be incredibly below market as 46 starters are making that much this year. But with both sides comfortable with those risks, then good deal.
- Not every player wants such a deal. And just because the team ordains him worthy of an offer doesn't mean he has to take it, especially if he is closer to cashing in through arbitration and isn't comfortable with the total value. A deal with regrets can be a big problem for years. Conversely, some players who would seem likely for an offer don't get one because the team feels he will be more motivated to produce going year to year. And then there are the players whose agents are opposed philosophically, which might not be best in that individual's case.
- Wouldn't have had Game 5 in a pool for Joe Maddon to wait to make his first instant replay challenge.
- The two-year extension for SS Yunel Escobar isn't necessarily a sign the team has given up on prospect Hak-Ju Lee (though last year's severe knee injury caused understandable pause), but an opportunity to maximize value in Escobar, who could end up being traded.
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For his one-day stint in the majors, INF Vince Belnome made $2,732 - a prorated portion of his $500,000 major-league salary divided over the 183-day calendar. ... The Rays had the majors' lowest attendance three of their first four days. ... Former Rays TV reporter Laura McKeeman has joined CNN, covering sports on all platforms. ... The Rays ranked 25th lowest in the majors in Team Marketing Report's Fan Cost Index, based on the price of similar tickets, concessions and souvenirs, and 26th based just on average ticket price. ... New TV pregame and postgame host Rich Hollenberg had a flashback moment during a Thursday interview with David DeJesus, calling the team the Devil Rays. ... First two themed road trips: Woodstock and tuxedos.
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Got a minute?
C Ryan Hanigan
Best meal you can make: A filet wrapped in bacon with some kind of sauce.
Must-see TV: The new season of Game of Thrones looks pretty cool.
Go-to karaoke song: Friends in Low Places
Reality show you'd be best on: Survivor
Dream date: I've always liked Angelina Jolie.
Marc Topkin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @TBTimes_Rays.