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First trades in Tampa Bay Rays history: “With the Cincinnati Reds”

Also the first trade in Tampa Bay Rays history, period.

Dmitri Young #25

November 11th, 1997

The Tampa Bay Devil Rays acquire OF Mike Kelly from the Cincinnati Reds for a player to be named; 1B/OF Dmitri Young would eventually be sent to Cincinnati to complete the deal on November 18th.

With the expansion draft quickly approaching in 1997, teams all across the league were looking to make offers and cash in on the would-be selections in the draft as the Arizona Diamondbacks and Tampa Bay Devil Rays would be snatching a total of 70 players off of the rosters of the 28 other teams in baseball.

However, before the draft had even arrived, the Devil Rays were already making roster moves and one player they sought in particular was outfielder, Mike Kelly, of the Cincinnati Reds.

Kelly had at one time been one of the top prospects in all of baseball and even in line to be taken as the first overall selection in the 1991 annual baseball draft, before the New York Yankees shockingly passed on him, allowing the Atlanta Braves to take with the second pick of the draft.

Over the next few years, Kelly would be touted as one of the top 100 prospects in baseball, rising as high as 19th overall. He’ made his MLB debut in 1994 and proceed to struggle over the next few years. Following the 1995 season, Kelly was dealt to the Cincinnati Reds for Chad Fox and Ray King.

Kelly didn’t fare much better with the Reds. After two years, however, he did show signs of improvement. In 1997 he finally performed above replacement level and put up 126 wRC+. Despite this, the Reds were looking to make a change and found the right team willing take him on.

As the expansion draft neared, the Reds struck a deal with the Devil Rays for a player to be named later.

Dmitri Young was drafted just two picks after Mike Kelly, as he was taken 4th overall by the St Louis Cardinals. Heading into the draft, he was considered to be among the best available high school players in the country, if not the best. At just 17 years old, Dmitri Young made his professional debut in the Rookie Leagues.

Like Kelly, Young found himself on Baseball America’s top 100 prospect list for several seasons as he made his ascent to the major leagues.

After several years, Dmitri Young finally made his major league debut during the 1996 season with the St Louis Cardinals. In 1997, he was given ample time to break out, but the 23 year old could not find his footing and struggled. He struggled so much in fact, that the Cardinals felt comfortable leaving him unprotected for the Expansion Draft.

So, with the 16th selection of the Expansion Draft, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays selected Dmitri Young, and then immediately sent him to the Cincinnati Reds to complete their trade for Mike Kelly.

The Aftermath...

On Opening Day 1998, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays took the field for their first ever game and Mike Kelly took his spot in left field.

That would serve as the high point of Kelly’s career with the Devil Rays.

Tampa Bay tried to make it work with Kelly, giving him a career high of 106 games to prove himself, but he performed below replacement level. As spring training ended in 1999, the Devil Rays released Kelly; he would go on to play in only two more MLB games the rest of his career, both with the Colorado Rockies in 1999. Kelly retired following the 2004 season after years of journeying the minor leagues.

Dmitri Young started sluggishly in 1998, but was eventually given a starting role and soon he thrived and put up terrific numbers. This trend would continue for several years, as he accrued 7.5 fWAR with Cincinnati before the Reds dealt him to the Detroit Tigers for Juan Encarnacion and Luis Pineda following the 2001 season.

Young thrived in Detroit, continuing to hit well above average. Although he endured struggles during the 2002 season, he broke out in a big way in 2003 as he belted 29 homeruns and slugged .537; both would be career highs. His performance led to his being named to his first All-Star game.

Young continued to hit well for Detroit over the next few years, but off the field, he was going through some major problems. It all hit a crescendo in 2006 when Young was arrested following an assault charge and subsequently arrested for failing to appear. Despite the legal problems, Young returned to the Tigers to play in 48 games that season, performing well below replacement level.

He would be released in September.

The Washington Nationals decided to take a flier on Young during the offseason and he rewarded them by being named the National League Comeback Player of the Year, as well as being named to the All-Star game for the second time in his career. He posted a .320/.379/.491 with the average and on-base percentage being the best of his 13 year career.

He returned for the 2008 season, but wasn’t close to being the same player. He played in just 50 games and would become a free agent following the season’s completion. He would never play in affiliated baseball again.

During the years after his MLB career, Young would again endure legal troubles for myriad reasons, as well as health issues due to his ongoing battle with diabetes, which had been diagnosed following the 2006 season.

After officially announcing his retirement in 2010, Young has attempted several comebacks but nothing ever came of them.