The Tampa Bay Rays, despite their lack of World Series success, have been a shining example of how to run a competitive franchise on a low budget in the modern era. They consistently find themselves at the bottom of Major League Baseball in payroll, yet also find themselves contending in the uber-competitive American League East on a yearly basis.
Much of the team’s success revolves around the fact that the powers-that-be cannot, and will not, overpay for veteran talent. Hence, the Rays roster is an ever-evolving enigma from year to year, with new faces popping up on the active roster every season.
Over the next several weeks Baseball Essential will be doing a series on the best and worst trade every team in Major League Baseball has made over the last decade. Here is the best and worst trade the Tampa Bay Rays have made since 2010.
The Best Trade the Tampa Bay Rays Have Made Since 2010: Tampa Bay Acquires Chris Archer, Robinson Chirinos, Brandon Guyer, Sam Fuld, and Hak-Ju Lee From the Chicago Cubs for Matt Garza, Fernando Perez, and Zach Rosscup (January 8, 2011)
As previously mentioned, the Rays roster is constantly changing year after year, which is why all four players that Tampa Bay received in this deal are no longer with them nine years later. That said, the decision to trade Garza to the Cubs back in 2011 would change the Rays’ outlook for many years.
Garza was coming off a career year in Tampa Bay in 2010, going 15-10 with a 3.91 ERA in 32 starts. The then 26-year-old set a career-high in wins and innings pitched that season while also hurling three complete games, one of which was a no-hitter on July 26 of that year against the Detroit Tigers.
The Rays seized upon Garza’s strong 2010 campaign and dealt him in the spring of 2011 to the Cubs, a team that was desperate to add to a thin starting rotation that included Ryan Dempster, Randy Wells, and Carlos Zambrano. Despite a good year from Garza, the 2011 Cubs finished dead last in their division. In fact, the Cubs never reached the postseason in the three years that Garza was with them, as he was eventually traded away to the Texas Rangers in 2014.
The Rays, meanwhile, were bolstered by the additions of Archer, Guyer, and Fuld for several years after the trade. Chirinos, now an everyday catcher for the Texas Rangers, never saw much playing time in Tampa Bay before being traded away to Texas for cash in a move that the Rays now likely regret. Hak-Ju Lee toiled away in the Rays’ minor-league system for several years before eventually deciding to continue his career in the Korean Baseball Organization in 2019.
Guyer and Fuld were both key contributors off the bench for the Rays, as the team contended for the AL Wild Card in 2012 and 2013. The real prize of the trade, however, was Archer. The right-hander went 54-68 with a 3.39 ERA during his seven years in the Rays rotation while racking up over 1,100 strikeouts in that span. He was then traded away to the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2018 for Austin Meadows, who is rapidly developing into a superstar in Tampa Bay’s outfield.
Swapping out Matt Garza for good utility players and a high-caliber pitcher who eventually netted a stud prospect made that 2011 trade 100 percent worth it for the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Worst Trade the Tampa Bay Rays Have Made Since 2010: Tampa Bay Acquires Jake Bauers, Rene Rivera, Burch Smith, Travis Ott, and Steven Souza Jr. in a Three-Team Deal with the San Diego Padres and Washington Nationals for Jose Castillo, Ryan Hanigan, Wil Myers, and Gerardo Reyes; San Diego Additionally Sent Joe Ross and a Player to be Named Later, which became Trea Turner, to Washington (December 19, 2014)
There is a lot to unpack in this trade, but the key thing to note is the Rays had a chance to trade Wil Myers to San Diego for Joe Ross and Trea Turner but instead decided to include the Washington Nationals to acquire Steven Souza Jr. instead.
The Rays possessed the key player that was coveted in this trade, that being Wil Myers, and the San Diego Padres were willing to give up top prospects to acquire him. The Rays had a chance to send their package of players and, in return, receive a package that would have included Ross and, most importantly, Turner. However, the Rays decided that they didn’t want to give up a former top prospect like Myers without receiving a major-league ready player in return, thus their desire to have Souza included in the deal.
The rest, as they say, is history. Souza played three seasons with the Rays before eventually being traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks in the spring of 2018, with his biggest highlight being the 30 home runs he hit in the 2017 season.
Meanwhile, Turner has developed into one of the top-five shortstops in baseball with the Nationals. His combination of power and natural speed make him a true dual-threat at the plate, and he was a major contributor to the 2019 Washington Nationals squad that captured the World Series title.
Stay tuned to Baseball Essential over the next few weeks for more on the best and worst trades made by all 30 MLB clubs over the past 10 years.