When the 2008 trade deadline loomed, the Tampa Bay Rays were in the thick of their first ever playoff race. They were in the midst of a miraculous turnaround season where they had surprised most everyone in the baseball world as they had surged to the top of the tough American League East.
Here were the standings heading into play on July 31st. (courtesy of Baseball Reference):
And here's how the Rays lineup looked on July 30th:
- Akinori Iwamura - 2B
- B.J. Upton - CF
- Carl Crawford - LF
- Evan Longoria - 3B
- Carlos Pena - 1B
- Eric Hinske - DH
- Dioner Navarro - C
- Gabe Gross - RF
- Jason Bartlett - SS
- Edwin Jackson - P
The bench consisted of Cliff Floyd, Willy Aybar, Jonny Gomes, and Shawn Riggans, while they're starting rotation featured James Shields, Scott Kazmir, Matt Garza, Edwin Jackson, and Andy Sonnanstine, and the bullpen held Grant Balfour, J.P. Howell, Dan Wheeler, Troy Percival, Trever Miller, Jason Hammell, and Al Reyes.
It was an exciting time for Rays fans as usually at this point in the year, they'd have to send one of their regular players away to get younger cheaper players that had some potential. This year, they were actually in talks to acquire some big name players such as Adam Dunn, Mark Teixeira, and even C.C. Sabathia.
The front three in the Rays rotation formed a dominant trio, while the bullpen had been sewn together but were effective in a closer by committee role, still the Rays were looking to add an effective reliever that would further solidify their pen, but nothing would come to fruition.
One of the bigger moves that the Rays were looking to make, was to acquire a solid bat to hit against southpaws in a corner outfield position and the best potential target was Pittsburgh Pirate slugger, Jason Bay. They were initially involved in talks for Adam Dunn, but those fell through due to the Rays unwillingness to include top prospects David Price, Wade Davis, or Jeremy Hellickson.
After play on July 30th, Jason Bay had slashed .282/.375/.519 with 22 homers. If he continue to be consistent with those, he'd serve as a potent bat in the middle of a solid Rays lineup.
As time passed by on July 31st, many reports were coming in about potential deals and new rumors were surfacing with many different players, until finally around 2pm, Bill Chastain reported a deal had been reached.
The deal would send Jeff Niemann and Reid Brignac to the Pirates in exchange for Bay.
As news of the trade broke, Rays fans became ecstatic about what Andrew Friedman had accomplished. They were embracing their new Canadian outfielder with open arms and couldn't wait to see where Maddon inserted him in his lineup.
Unfortunately, just a little while after Chastain's story broke, other sources were contradicting it saying a deal had not yet been reached and the Pirates were asking for more. Rays fans were still ecstatic thinking they had acquired a new dangerous hitter, but with every passing second, it seemed a new rumor would come out with different details deflating Rays fans hopes.
Surely, fans were checking every available source looking for all the latest to see what was happening with have minute inching closer to the deadline, until it finally hit. The Rays had made no moves at the deadline...
This was gut punch, as fans were already penciling Bay into future lineups and trying to pre-order Bay merchandise.
Then, the worst possible outcome happened as the Rays nemesis, the Boston Red Sox swooped in and acquired Bay themselves, adding him to an already formidable lineup.
While the Rays were in talks to acquire Bay, the Red Sox had been simultaneously doing the same thing as they were desperately trying to get rid of the media circus that was Manny Ramirez. Their talks had slowed to a halt several times and was even called dead at one point. But a few hours after the deadline, the news came that Red Sox had been part of a three team blockbuster.
PIT receives: Andy LaRoche and Bryan Morris from LA / Craig Hansen and Brandon Moss from BOS
LA receives: Manny Ramirez + $7 million from BOS
BOS receives: Jason Bay from PIT
After the deal was done, Bay would become a thorn in the Rays' side as they played on into the postseason. He played against Tampa Bay in four regular season games and homered in three of them, then during the dramatic seven game ALCS, he homered again and had a decent series against Tampa Bay.
The Rays would have the last laugh though, as Bay was fittingly the last out of the series, as he was the runner forced out at 2nd when Aki stepped on the bag and initiated a wild celebration.
If you want to take a walk down memory lane, I'd advise checking out the archive of that fateful day in July that featured tears of joy followed by tears of despair.