Rays Tales: What they could have had

Los Angeles Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw throws a pitch against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the first inning of a baseball game Wednesday, June 15, 2016, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) PNC101
Los Angeles Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw throws a pitch against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the first inning of a baseball game Wednesday, June 15, 2016, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) PNC101
Published June 19, 2016

Buster Posey — the player the Rays, and their fans, are well aware they could have had with the first pick in the 2008 draft rather than Tim Beckham — is at the Trop for the weekend with his Giants.

Which made it just too tempting for us to not look back at other players the Rays could have taken in — or signed from — the draft, or that they had but, for whatever reason, parted ways with only to watch them become stars elsewhere.

It's not that the Rays always made the wrong choice — for example, it's hard to quibble with picking Evan Longoria third overall in 2006, though there was a pretty good pitcher available later — just that they had other options. And, to be fair, a similar list could be made for every team.

Just consider this a different kind of a Rays fantasy team:

C: Buster Posey

FSU star seemed a surer bet as the top pick, but Rays didn't project him to hit as much, and saw Beckham as having the higher ceiling. Eight years later, Posey has an MVP award, three World Series rings and 910 big-league hits. Beckham has 64.

1B: Mark Teixeira

With the No. 3 pick in the 2001 draft, the Rays had intriguing choices even with Joe Mauer and Mark Prior gone. But scared off by Teixeira's rumored $15 million demand, they opted instead for Dewon Brazelton, who over parts of four seasons racked up 8 whole W's.

2B: Rickie Weeks

In a way, drafting Delmon Young No. 1 overall in 2003 worked out as he was dealt for Jason Bartlett and Matt Garza, who helped the Rays into the '08 World Series, and then were both traded for key pieces. But Young never did much, while Weeks, who went No. 2, was a 10-year mainstay for the Brewers.

SS: Chris Gomez

The Rays picked him up on the cheap following his June 2001 release by the Padres and kept him through 2002 before cutting him loose. He went on to play six more seasons, while they switched off to Julio Lugo and others.

3B: Nolan Arenado

The 2009 draft was pretty much a waste as the 30th-picking Rays didn't sign top pick LeVon Washington, who didn't turn out to be much anyway. Arenado, who went 59th overall to the Rockies, would have been a good get.

OF: Josh Hamilton

The Rays made Hamilton the top pick in 1999, lived frustratingly through his repeated drug suspensions, got him back on the field — and then left him unprotected in the 2006 Rule 5 draft. Hamilton went to the Reds then the Rangers, where he made five All-Star teams and won an MVP award.

OF: Andrew McCutchen

It was hard to whiff in the deep '05 draft unless you tried, and the Rays (save for RHP Jeremy Hellickson) did, starting by taking RHP Wade Townsend No. 8. McCutchen, who grew up 75 miles from the Trop, went three picks later to the Pirates, and has been an MVP and five-time All-Star.

OF: Jose Bautista

Like the Pirates, Orioles, Royals and Mets, the Rays had Bautista in 2004 but didn't really know what they had. It took him a few years, the chance for regular playing time and a trade to Toronto, but at 29 he blossomed into a most feared slugger.

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DH: Bobby Abreu

Original GM Chuck LaMar was trying to build an expansion team and felt he had to have a trusty shortstop, so arranged to take Abreu in the expansion draft and swap him to the Phillies for Kevin Stocker. Stocker had three pedestrian seasons for the Rays; Abreu played 17 more seasons and piled up another 2,418 hits.

Bench: Derek Dietrich, a 2010 second-round pick traded for two seasons of Yunel Escobar; Jacoby Ellsbury, a 2002 23rd-round pick who didn't sign; Stephen Vogt, who was DFA'd in spring 2013 and became an A's All-Star.

SP: Clayton Kershaw

Not that Longoria was a bad No. 3 pick in the 2006 draft, but Kershaw, taken seventh by the Dodgers, has won 124 games, three Cy Youngs and an MVP award.

SP: Zack Greinke

B.J. Upton wasn't a bad 2002 No. 2 choice, certainly better than No. 1 Bryan Bullington (Pirates). But the real prize came at No. 6 where the Royals took Greinke, who has won 151 games and a Cy Young Award.

SP: Josh Beckett

The chance for a dominant position player made Hamilton the right 1999 No. 1 pick over Beckett, a prep pitcher with Texas-sized confidence. But it looked less so as Hamilton's career was derailed by drugs while Beckett won 138 games and two World Series.

SP: Jason Hammel

With one spot open in the 2009 rotation, the Rays decided to keep Jeff Niemann and dumped Hammel to the Rockies for a middling prospect. More sturdy than a star, Hammel since has gone 69-64, 4.11 and is still pitching for the Cubs.

RHP Jos Ross

The Rays got Ross from the Padres in the Wil Myers deal, but opted to send him (and SS Trea Turner) to the Nationals for Steven Souza Jr. It's probably too soon to judge either one, but Ross, just 23, has a chance to be really good for a long time.

RP: Wade Davis

Davis was a so-so starter and reluctant reliever during three-plus seasons with the Rays. But after being part of the James Shields/Wil Myers trade and a transitional 2013 season with the Royals, Davis emerged as arguably the game's most potent reliever, with an ERA since Opening Day 2014 of a staggering 0.99.

RP: Andrew Miller

Rays made him a 2003 third-round pick out of Gainesville Buchholz High, but couldn't talk — or buy — him out of his commitment to North Carolina, and he, too, has emerged as a dominant reliever.

Draft rumblings

1B coach Rocco Baldelli's youngest brother, Dante, was taken in the 39th round by the Phillies after a stellar career of his own at Rhode Island's Bishop Hendricken High, but is more likely headed to play at Boston College. … This isn't the first time the Rays drafted and signed the older brother (Nathaniel) of their top pick (Josh Lowe); in 2008 they took Tim first and Jeremy Beckham in the 17th round. … Fourth-round pick RHP Easton McGee was at the Trop Saturday for a look around.

Rays rumblings

Kudos to Rays officials for Friday's classy, well-done Pride Night tribute to the Orlando shooting victims, and a nice last-minute touch adding the Orlando Rays caps. … If OF Carl Crawford, released last week by the Dodgers, were interested, the Rays would at least talk about a reunion. … 2015 All-Star RHP Chris Archer tweeted for fans to vote for Longoria, noting, "I know it's tough to compete with the densely populated cities." Longoria tweeted back thanks, and endorsed Steve Pearce. … OF Jaff Decker was the first to wear No. 14 since LHP David Price was traded in July 2014. … Hitting coach Derek Shelton's son, Jackson, was named offensive player of the year for his Seffner Christian Academy junior varsity team, hitting .405.