With the Rays planning a year-long celebration of their 20th anniversary, the Times is taking a look back – with 20 lists of 20 things about those first 20 seasons.
Check out the rest of Marc Topkin's coverage here, on:
–20 words on the 20th anniversary
–20 numbers to remember
–The 20 weirdest moments
–Tampa Bay's 20 'Forrest Gump moments'
–20 years of Rays and 'the things we've loved' about them
–Greatest moments in franchise history
–Best signings, trades and deals
–20 players who surprisingly finished with them
–20 players you forgot ever played for them
–20 most notable draft picks
–20 Things we've hated over the years
–The 20 best players
–The 20 best quotes
–Recounting the 20 most memorable injuries
–The 20 worst players
–Ranking every season
Here are the 20 best moves in Rays history:
1. Traded 2003 No. 1 overall pick OF Delmon Young to the Twins in November 2007 for SS Jason Bartlett and RHP Matt Garza, who became big players on the '08 World Series breakthrough team.
2. Then, after the 2010 season, traded Garza to the Cubs for a haul headlined by All-Star RHP Chris Archer, plus OF Brandon Guyer and OF Sam Fuld (plus C Robinson Chirinos and SS Hak-Ju Lee), and traded Bartlett to the Padres for helpful parts including RHP Brandon Gomes, LHP Cesar Ramos and INF Cole Figueroa.
3. Dealt free-agent-to-be INF/DH Aubrey Huff to the Astros in July 2006 for unheralded prospect Ben Zobrist, who maximized his infield/outfield positional versatility to become one of their best-ever players.
4. Signed 1B Carlos Peña to a minor-league deal just before spring training 2007, then — although after first cutting him — having him step in after Greg Norton was hurt, hitting 46 homers and becoming a key part of their 2008-10 run.
5. Dumped LHP Scott Kazmir and (nearly $25 million owed) to the Angels in August 2009 for INF Sean Rodriguez and LHP Alex Torres, then used Torres (and RHP Jesse Hahn) in a January 2014 deal with the Padres to get INF Logan Forsythe and RHPs Brad Boxberger and Matt Andriese.
6. Made the somewhat risky but right decision to hire manager Joe Maddon, as a 754-705 record over nine seasons, four playoff appearances and relevance show.
7. Signed OF Carl Crawford to an extension worth up to $32.5 million over six years, including team options to buy out his first two years of free agency, the first of several such deals they would make to extend control of players.
8. Signed Hall of Fame-bound Tampa product Wade Boggs to the 1998 roster to provide experience, validity, ticket-sales appeal and a distraction to their onfield play with his march toward 3,000 hits, which was the signature moment of their first 10 seasons. And made a small trade to also bring in Tampa's Fred McGriff.
9. Brought in veteran MLB executive Gerry Hunsicker to help guide Andrew Friedman in his first years running baseball operations after the 2006 Sternberg takeover. (Of note, they didn't feel the need to do the same when Matt Silverman replaced Friedman in October 2014.)
10. Traded INF Ty Wigginton to Houston for RHP Dan Wheeler in July 2007 to provide a leadership foundation for the 2008 bullpen.
11. Signed veteran free agents Cliff Floyd, Eric Hinske and Troy Percival to provide leadership to the 2008 team.
12. Signed free agent RHP Fernando Rodney after a rough stint in Anaheim, then watched as pitching coach Jim Hickey worked his magic as Rodney posted one of the best reliever seasons in 2012 in major-league history, saving 48 games with a 0.60 ERA.
13. Dealt previously injured INF Aki Iwamura to the Pirates for RHP Jesse Chavez, whom they sent to Atlanta to get closer RHP Rafael Soriano, who delivered a 45-save All-Star 2010 season, plus two comp picks when he left as a free agent.
14. Traded the unfulfilled promise of RHP Seth McClung to Milwaukee in July 2007 to add the experience of RHP Grant Balfour to the 2008 bullpen, though he initially was sent to the minors.
15. Acquired LHP J.P. Howell from Kansas City in June 2006 for bit parts and turned him into an effective reliever.
16. Made what seemed like a minor free-agent signing in adding journeyman reliever Joel Peralta to the 2011 bullpen, then saw him play a major role on the mound and in the bullpen, especially in guiding some of their young Latin Americans.
17. Made the decision to move LHP Drew Smyly 2½ seasons after getting him in the trade of AL Cy Young Award winner David Price, fortuitous because he got hurt and they picked up potentially helpful pieces in OF Mallex Smith and LHP Ryan Yarbrough.
18. Got Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi in return when James Shields and Wade Davis were no longer cost-efficient, then pivoted on Myers in a larger deal where the big payoff could be Jake Bauers.
19. Acquired LHP Scott Kazmir from the Mets in a July 2004 deal for Victor Zambrano and Bartolome Fortunato and saw him develop into a two-time All-Star.
20. Twice signed 3B Evan Longoria to long-term, team-friendly deals that, in theory, would keep him with the Rays for his whole career. Well, the first part still worked.