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Alternate history: What wouldn't have happened if Rays had taken Weeks over Young

Rickie Weeks, who is entering his 14th major-league season, is expected to provide some right-handed pop for the Rays.
Published Feb. 20, 2017

PORT CHARLOTTE

We don't know what would have happened had Devil Rays officials gone the other way on what was basically a coin-flip decision and taken Rickie Weeks with the first overall pick in the 2003 draft.

But we can tell you what wouldn't have happened, or at least not the way history unfolded, had they not instead drafted Delmon Young. Because if the Rays had not taken him …

• Young wouldn't have been with Triple-A Durham in 2006, tossed his bat at an umpire, gotten suspended 50 games and been turned into a pariah who was hit, intentionally, with the first pitch he saw that August after being promoted to the majors.

And …

• Young wouldn't have been traded after a solid 2007 inaugural full season, when he finished second to Boston's Dustin Pedroia in rookie of the year voting, to the Twins for shortstop Jason Bartlett and starter Matt Garza, who became key parts of the unexpected 2008 rise from downtrodden Devil Rays to rising Rays.

And …

• The Rays wouldn't have made it to the 2008 World Series, as Bartlett emerged as their most valuable player for his solidifying defense and steady offense and Garza won AL Championship Series MVP for beating the Red Sox in Game 3 and a thrilling Game 7.

And …

• They wouldn't have loaded up with a passel of prospects two years and another playoff appearance later, trading Bartlett to the Padres for infielder Cole Figueroa and pitchers Brandon Gomes, Cesar Ramos and Adam Russell, then Garza to the Cubs for starter Chris Archer, catcher Robinson Chirinos, shortstop Hak-Ju Lee and outfielders Sam Fuld and Brandon Guyer.

And …

• Archer wouldn't have gotten the same opportunity to develop into a top starter, earn a six-year, $25.5 million extension, make an All-Star team, do postseason work for ESPN, meet President Barack Obama in Cuba and emerge as one of the new faces of the game. Similarly, Fuld wouldn't have forged his Super Sam reputation for fearless and acrobatic catches in the Rays outfield, Gomes and Ramos wouldn't have been key parts of their bullpen for years, Figueroa wouldn't be working now in their front office and Guyer wouldn't have been traded (to keep the tree growing with prospects Nathan Lukes and Jhonleider Salinas) to the Indians and ended up in last year's World Series.

And …

• Young (probably?) wouldn't have ended up out of the majors before he turned 30, having delivered some big postseason hits for the Tigers (MVP of 2012 ALCS) and Rays (2013 wild-card game) but nothing since June 2015, while also getting involved in several ugly off-field legal incidents.

And …

• Weeks wouldn't be standing in the Rays clubhouse this week as a new addition, being praised and counted on to provide right-handed power, defense at first base and leader­ship from his 13 seasons in the majors, 11 — including a 2011 All-Star-worthy performance at second base — with the Brewers, who drafted the Orlando area native with the second pick in 2003.

•••

"It's cool," Weeks said. "It's crazy. That's how baseball is. Everything is full circle."

Understandably, Weeks, 34, hasn't spent much time thinking about how his life might have been different had Devil Rays execs Chuck LaMar and Cam Bonifay made the other decision. "Don't know, don't care," he said with a smile.

But, finally, getting a chance all these years to play for what he considers his hometown team, did Weeks think they made the wrong call back then?

"I'm not saying nothing," he said.

No need. We think we know.

Marc Topkin can be reached at mtopkin@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.

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