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First trades in Tampa Bay Rays history: “With the Chicago White Sox”

“Ten-Run Sturtze” comes to Tampa Bay

Yankees v Devil Rays Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

May 31st, 2000

Tampa Bay Devil Rays trade INF Tony Graffanino to the Chicago White Sox for RHP Tanyon Sturtze

The Tampa Bay Devil Rays and Chicago White Sox came together a third of the way through the 2000 season to complete a minor deal involving small role players for their teams.

Tanyon Sturtze was a former 23rd round draft pick by the Oakland Athletics in 1990. He was picked up by the Chicago Cubs during the 1994 Rule 5 draft and made his MLB debut during the 1995 season as a member of the Cubs. He would soon become a free agent and signed with the Texas Rangers and later the Chicago White Sox, not enjoying much success during any of brief trips to the majors.

With the White Sox in 2000, Sturtze was enjoying his most major league experience when he was dealt to Tampa Bay. Prior to the trade, he had appeared in 10 games for Chicago, starting one of them, and the results had been disastrous, as he had given up 23 runs in just shy of 16.0 innings pitched.

Tony Graffanino meanwhile, was selected in the same draft as Sturtze, being taken in the 10th round by the Atlanta Braves. He would spend the next decade with the Braves, before being released at the start of the 1999 season. Soon after, he was picked up by the Devil Rays, spent the first half of the year with the Durham Bulls before being promoted to the show in late July.

Once he joined Tampa Bay, Graffanino was the best player on the team through the end of the year as he accrued 1.4 fWAR to lead the team, slashing .315/.364/.492 over 142 plate appearances and spent an equal amount of time at the positions up the middle.

He was used sparingly by Tampa Bay in 2000, splitting time between Tampa Bay and Durham before the deal that sent him to Chicago came to fruition.

Aftermath

Once he joined Tampa Bay, Sturtze came out of the bullpen about once a week, for an inning or so at a time. Sturtze kept building on quality outing after quality outing before finally, the Devil Rays gave him a shot in the starting rotation, where he pitched exceptionally. Unfortunately, he would be shut down in late August and miss the rest of the season.

In 2001, he returned to the bullpen for the first month of the season before being placed back in the starting rotation in early May. Sturtze return to the rotation didn’t bring back his stellar numbers from 2000, and he provided a lackluster year for Tampa Bay. Of note, he started the first game in Yankee Stadium following the September 11th terrorist attacks; Sturtze delivered seven shutout innings in a 4-0 Devil Rays victory.

2002 was a banner year for Sturtze, not in that he was great, but in that he etched himself into the Devil Rays history books as their Opening Day starter and their first pitcher to lose 18 games, a record he held solely until Chris Archer matched it in 2017.

Following the dreadful season, Sturtze was granted free agency. He wasn’t actually that bad of a pitcher with Tampa Bay in 2002, but with the team that was placed behind him, he wasn’t given that much opportunity and he was far too exposed at the front end of the Devil Rays rotation.

Over the next few years, Sturtze would journey around the American League East, spending some time with the Toronto Blue Jays and several seasons with the New York Yankees. Sturtze pitched his last major league game in 2008, while as a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Graffanino, meanwhile, served as a role player off the bench over the next few seasons, playing wherever he was asked and performing above replacement level. He would finish out his tenure with the Chicago White Sox in 2003, providing a total of 4.7 fWAR over his three-plus seasons on the south side.

Following his departure from the White Sox, he played for several teams, such as the Boston Red Sox, Kansas City Royals, Milwuakee Brewers, and Cleveland Indians. His best performance came as a member of the Brewers, where accrued 1.5 fWAR over just 60 games. He played his last Major League game in 2009 with the Indians.

Since retiring, Graffanino has become the spring training chaplain for the Chicago White Sox as well as their chaplain in the Arizona League. Graffanino’s son, A.J. was taken in the 2018 draft by the Atlanta Braves, he is currently playing in High-A and has been lauded for his defensive abilities, just like his father.