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The Rays Tried to Acquire Jon Lester and Hanley Ramirez

A proposed 2005 trade would have altered the destinies of three teams

Red Sox Photo Day Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The Rays have made plenty of franchise altering trades. They dealt Randy Winn to get Lou Pinella, they bamboozled the Twins to get Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett for Delmon Young, they befuddled the Astros to get Ben Zobrist in exchange for Aubrey Huff.

With limited resources, they are often trading proven stars to acquire the stars of the future.

In 2005, they nearly completed a blockbuster deal that would have netted them two prospects who have gone on to have tremendous careers. Their names? Jon Lester and Hanley Ramirez.

The Background

Leading up to the 2005 trade deadline, the Rays were looking to shed payroll and receive young, top prospects to give them a chance in the future. The Rays had plenty of players who could have piqued other teams’ interest. Their roster included all-star closer Danys Baez; perennial slugger Aubrey Huff; and the consistently productive Julio Lugo.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the division, Manny Ramirez had reportedly requested a trade from the Boston Red Sox in the days just before the July 31st deadline.

Over in the National League, the New York Mets were looking for some offensive support in their outfield and were willing to pay to get it, offering to pick up all of Manny Ramirez’s remaining salary to make a deal work. In addition, they were also in the market to add a closer.

So, the three teams came together to try to orchestrate this complex deal.

The Deal

The framework was in place for the Rays to send Danys Baez to the Mets and to also send Aubrey Huff to the Red Sox. Since the Mets were willing to eat all of Manny Ramirez’s salary, they expected the Red Sox to pony up the difference in value to the Rays in the form of prospects.

The Rays had their eyes on two top prospects: Hanley Ramirez and Jon Lester, who at the time were Boston’s number one and four prospects respectively.

The Red Sox, however, found this price too steep, and the deal broke down. The Mets tried to work out single team deals with both clubs but nothing would come to fruition.

The Devil Rays were insisting that Boston trade both its top offensive prospect, Hanley Ramirez, and its top pitching prospect, Jon Lester, to the Rays in order to finish off the deal. The Red Sox, however, couldn't convince themselves to trade their two best prospects and their 150-RBI cleanup man in one massive transaction. -

The Aftermath

In the off-season, Hanley Ramirez was dealt to the Marlins to help the Red Sox acquire Mike Lowell and Josh Beckett.

The Rays meanwhile, would trade both Baez and Huff the following year bringing in notable future Rays stars in Edwin Jackson and Ben Zobrist. Both players, who are still active, have had important roles in successful Rays teams, both through their play and their trade value.

Had the Rays completed this trade, they would have had a better team in 2006 and 2007 with both Lester and Ramirez. Of course, without Huff, the Rays may not have acquired Ben Zobrist, and without the worst record in baseball in 2006 they could not have drafted David Price. This tale is a reminder that the deals you don’t make can be as significant as those you do make.