The list of players who appeared in a game for the Rays over their first 25 seasons is 572 deep. That spans familiar faces, such as Evan Longoria, Carl Crawford and Ben Zobrist, who participated in more than 1,000 Tampa Bay games each, and an eclectic collection of 18 who appeared in just one, including long-time big-leaguers Julio Franco and Juan Guzman. From that group, we set out to assemble the all-time Rays team.
Our base criterion was simple: players would be evaluated just on what they did when playing for the Rays. So, for example, though Wade Boggs and Fred McGriff had Hall of Fame careers overall, they didn’t do enough as Rays to make this cut.
From there it got a little fuzzier. We tried to keep players in positions they appeared regularly, if not primarily, but we had to make a few adjustments to include a couple that were definitely among the 20 best.
With input from several current and former longtime Rays staffers, 25-year TV broadcaster Dewayne Staats and statistical experts Sarah Langs (mlb.com) and Mark Simon (Sports Info Solutions), here is the final product:
Catcher: Toby Hall
Rays stats: 586 games, .262 avg., .681 OPS, 44 HRs, 251 RBIs, 5.7 WAR
John Jaso and Mike Zunino hit better in smaller samples, and Dioner Navarro made an All-Star team, but Hall was the Rays’ most consistent catcher, making five opening day starts over parts of seven seasons. Hall produced without much power and kept the running game under control.
Also considered: Navarro
First base: Carlos Peña
Rays stats: 726 games, .230 avg, .843 OPS, 163 HRs, 468 RBIs, 18.1 WAR
Peña set single-season records in 2007 for homers (46) and RBIs (121), and ranks among the franchise career top four in both, plus on-base percentage in two stints over five seasons. He was an All-Star, Silver Slugger and two-time, top-10 AL MVP finisher, and won a Gold Glove for his silky smooth defense.
Also considered: Fred McGriff
Second base: Brandon Lowe
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Rays stats: 395 games, .249 avg., .830 OPS, 84 HRs, 237 RBIs, 11.8 WAR
In fewer than 400 games over parts of five seasons, Lowe already has compiled an impressive resume, with a 39-homer performance, an All-Star selection, two top-10 AL MVP finishes. Plus he ranks as the franchise leader with a .495 slugging percentage.
Also considered: Ben Zobrist
Shortstop: Julio Lugo
Rays stats: 505 games, .287 avg., .770 OPS, 40 HRs, 212 RBIs, 13.5 WAR
One of the tougher decisions, with more production over a longer Rays tenure giving Lugo the edge over Jason Bartlett (400 games, .752 OPS, 10.4 WAR). Lugo also ranks among the franchise leaders in hits (550, ninth) and steals (88, sixth).
Also considered: Jason Bartlett
Third base: Evan Longoria
Rays stats: 1,435 games, .370 avg., .823 OPS, 261 HRs, 892 RBIs, 51.2 WAR
The best-ever Rays player was the most obvious choice for the all-time team, holding franchise records for games, homers, RBIs, runs (780), doubles (338), walks (569), extra-base hits (618) and total bases (2,630). Plus, he won rookie of the year and three Gold Gloves, made three All-Star teams and had four top-11 AL MVP finishes.
Also considered: Yandy Diaz
Leftfield: Carl Crawford
Rays stats: 1,235 games, .296 avg., .781 OPS, 104 HRs, 592 RBIs, 35.6 WAR
The second-best player in Rays history was another obvious choice, holding team records for batting average (.296), hits (1,480), triples (105) and stolen bases (409). He made four All-Star teams, won Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards, finished seventh in the 2010 AL MVP voting and led the AL in steals four times.
Also considered: Desmond Jennings
Centerfield: Kevin Kiermaier
Rays stats: 914 games, .248 avg., .715 OPS, 82 HRs, 316 RBIs, 31.8 WAR
A closer call than you might think, as B.J. Upton played more games in center and provided much more offense. But Kiermaier’s defensive dominance set him apart, and if not for injuries he would have won more than three Gold Gloves and one Platinum. Plus, his WAR is twice as high as Upton’s.
Also considered: B.J. Upton
Rightfield: Matt Joyce
Rays stats: 633 games, .250 avg., .777 OPS, 76 HRs, 280 RBIs, 10.3 WAR
There was no standout choice, with 12 Rays (including Ben Zobrist) starting between 146-350 games in rightfield. Steven Souza Jr. had the most games, and Aubrey Huff the most production, but Joyce the best overall performance. Plus, he made an All-Star team.
Also considered: Stephen Souza Jr.
DH: B.J. Upton
Rays stats: 966 games, .255 avg., .758 OPS, 118 HRs, 447 RBIs, 15.6 WAR
Upton’s power and speed — averaging 19 homers and 36 steals over six seasons — made him a key part of three Rays playoff teams. Though he spent most of his time in center, the Rays’ philosophy of shifting players around led to this somewhat manufactured move to the DH spot to get him on the team.
Also considered: Jose Canseco
Utility: Ben Zobrist
Rays stats: 1,064 games, .264 avg., .783 OPS, 114 HRs, 511 RBIs, 35.3 WAR
Joe Maddon turned Zobrist into the model for the super utilityman, and he flourished, compiling the third best WAR in franchise history while starting at seven positions and DH. He ranks in the top five in hits (1,016), on-base percentage (.354) and runs (565). Plus, he made two All-Star teams and had three top-18 AL MVP finishes.
Also considered: Aubrey Huff
LH David Price
Rays stats: 82-47, 3.18 ERA, 170 starts, 1,143 2/3 IP, 1065 K, 21.3 WAR
Price was the workhorse starter for parts of six seasons, highlighted by the 2012 AL Cy Young for his 20-win season. That after winning 19 and finishing second in 2010, and making three straight All-Star teams (and four in five years). He ranks first in franchise history in ERA, second in wins and innings, third in strikeouts.
RH James Shields
Rays stats: 87-73, 3.89, 217 starts, 1,454 2/3 IP, 1,250 K, 19.7 WAR
Being the franchise leader in wins, losses (73), starts, innings and complete games (19) illustrates Shields’ durability and determination to take the ball, even though the results weren’t flashy. He made the 2011 All-Star team, and finished third in the Cy Young voting. Plus, he had their first World Series win.
LH Scott Kazmir
Rays stats: 55-49, 3.92 ERA, 144 starts, 834 IP, 874 K, 16.5 WAR
Kazmir debuted at age 20 after being acquired from the Mets in July 2004, and he lived up to the hype, posting 10-plus wins in three straight 95-plus loss seasons, then helping spark the 2008 worst-to-first turnaround. He also made two All-Star teams.
LH Blake Snell
Rays stats: 42-30, 3.24 ERA, 108 starts, 556 IP, 648 K, 11.6 WAR
Snell demonstrated his dominance in a dazzling 2018 season, going 21-5, 1.89 and winning a Cy Young award, and then struck out 32.1 percent of batters faced for three seasons. He posted a team-record low .223 opponents average.
RH Chris Archer
Rays stats: 55-69, 3.71 ERA, 182 starts, 1,082 1/3 IP, 1167 K, 11.4 WAR
Despite a losing record, including a 19-loss 2016 season, Archer made two All-Star teams, has the second-most career starts and strikeouts, and has the first- (252), second- (249) and fifth-most (233) strikeouts in a season.
Also considered: Alex Cobb, Matt Garza, Matt Moore, Jake Odorizzi
Rays stats: 8-16, 3.43 ERA, 207 G, 101/122 Saves, 4.9 WAR
He was signed as a free agent to bring savvy and experience to the expansion Devil Rays. His team-record 101 saves include 43 (in 47 chances) for a 1999 team that won only 69, as he made the All-Star team and got Cy Young votes. He averaged 69 appearances for his three seasons.
Rays stats: 21-11, 2.77 ERA, 297 G, 26/40 saves, 5.8 WAR
McGee holds the franchise record for appearances and, though not pitching often in save situations, struck out 31 percent of hitters and did much of the tough work against left-handed hitters.
Rays stats: 17-18, 3.21 ERA, 196 G, 95/111 saves, 4.4 WAR
Colome was a converted starter who developed into an ace reliever, with 95 saves, a 2.86 ERA and 152 strikeouts in 145 innings over a 2½-season run, including a majors-leading 47 saves in 2017.
Rays stats: 7-6, 1.91 ERA, 144 G, 85/95 saves, 4.2 WAR
Given how the Rays churn relievers, two seasons was enough to earn a spot. Rodney’s 2012 season alone may have done it as he converted a team-record 48 of 50 saves, shooting his imaginary arrow to celebrate, allowed only five earned runs (0.60) ERA over 76 appearances and finished fifth in the AL Cy Young voting.
Rays stats: 11-22, 3.58 ERA, 296 G, 10/24 saves, 1.9 WAR
A case can be made for Danys Baez, who logged 71 saves in two seasons, but Peralta earned a spot with his yeoman’s work in usually difficult situations over four seasons, making a majors-most 80 appearances for the 2013 wild-card team and the second most in team history.
Also considered: Danys Baez, Grant Balfour, Rafael Soriano
Rays stats: 754-705 (.517) over nine seasons, four playoff appearances (13-17)
There isn’t much difference between the success of Maddon and current manager Kevin Cash. Cash has a slightly better record, 640-554 (.536) over eight seasons, is 15-17 in the postseason and also led the team to four playoff appearances, including one World Series. Both have won two manager of the year awards. Cash impressed by learning on the job and has posted five straight winning records. Maddon gets a slight edge based on his role in the Rays’ remarkable 2008 transformation from cellar dweller to annual contender, introducing and incorporating all the new and unorthodox methods necessary.
Also considered: Cash
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