Last week, I did some researching into the Rays historical archives and discovered they were in talks with the Mets and Red Sox to make a massive, history altering trade that would have brought Hanley Ramirez and Jon Lester to Tampa Bay.
This piqued my interest to dig deeper into past Rays trades that nearly came to fruition, which brought me to the 2005 Winter Meetings. This was a very busy time for the Rays, who were dubbed ‘Under Construction.’ New management had taken over the reins of the team and were trying to completely rebuild the organization.
So once Andrew Friedman arrived at his first Winter Meetings, he instantly became a very popular man. Teams approached him about almost every player on the roster, most notably Julio Lugo, Danys Baez, and Aubrey Huff. The trio of sought-after Rays were only under contract for one more season, but Friedman still had his sights set high.
The Braves were among the teams who were eyeballing Julio Lugo as they had lost out on the Rafael Furcal sweepstakes and were frantically looking to fill that void during the meetings. The Braves also had heavy interest in adding a reliever to replace John Smoltz, who would be returning to the starting rotation. Thus, things lined up perfectly for the Braves and Rays.
Except, the Rays were asking for a lot back from the Braves.
In initial talks between the two teams, the Braves sought Baez and Lugo, but when it came to the return, the Rays were asking for a couple of top pitching prospects, plus Brian McCann, who had just wrapped up a solid rookie season. So the talks stalled.
The Braves have had several trade discussions with the Devil Rays, but all talks with Tampa Bay are believed to be dead. When Atlanta inquired about what it would take to obtain both Lugo and closer Danys Baez, the Rays asked for McCann and two top-caliber pitching prospects on the level of Kyle Davies.
The Braves ultimately acquired Edgar Renteria from the Boston Red Sox for uber prospect Andy Marte. The Rays had been enamored of Marte, and had actually tried to acquire him from Atlanta as well in exchange for Lugo, but those talks never bore any fruit.
The Red Sox and Rays remained in contact for the month of December, but ultimately a deal was never made as Boston shied away from Lugo due to off the field issues. The following year at the trade deadline, the Rays would deal Lugo and Baez to the Dodgers in separate deals in exchange for Sergio Pedroza, Joel Guzman, Chuck Tiffany, and Edwin Jackson.
Brian McCann would become one of the top catchers in the game. Julio Lugo eventually found his way to both the Braves and Red Sox organizations. He has since retired, and now has failed to escape his off the field demons. Andy Marte went from being one of the top prospects of the early 2000’s to accruing negative 2.2 fWAR during his days in the majors.
It’s funny how the game works; the moves that aren’t made can turn out to be as big as the ones that are. Brian McCann could have been the extra peg that was needed during the Rays’ Cinderella run in 2008, but then, again if Guzman or Pedroza had produced while McCann faltered, this wouldn’t be a story. It goes to show, that any rumor or rumblings discussing any player shouldn’t be immediately dismissed as you never know how certain players will ultimately perform.