I was bored one afternoon when suddenly a question occurred to me: who are the best players for other teams to have played for the Tampa Bay Rays?
This of course is a completely natural thing to ponder and an easy enough thing to search out utilizing the search feature on Baseball Reference that allows one to research players who have played for multiple franchises. With the tools at my fingertips. I set about my search.
Down the list I went and sorted by the highest bWAR per player and encountered names of some very surprising players who many may not have realized once played for the Rays; There were also many great players who were truly among the best of their generations—one even a Hall of Famer—who did not make this list.
Once I compiled the list of 29 players from around the league, I thought it might be fun to try and build a serviceable roster out of them and even make a starting lineup.
Unfortunately, the 29 players on the list don’t even out perfectly to 13 pitchers and 13 position players, so the bullpen will be half-full while several position players will have to be cut. Also, for the sake of this exercise, I will only be factoring the players during the primes of their careers with these select teams.
Without further ado, here are the 29 players, and their bWAR earned with their corresponding team::
- Arizona Diamondbacks: David Peralta, 15.3
- Atlanta Braves: Yunel Escobar, 11.4
- Baltimore Orioles: Erik Bedard, 12.8
- Boston Red Sox: Wade Boggs, 72.0
- Chicago Cubs: Steve Trachsel, 9.6
- Chicago White Sox: Alexei Ramirez, 23.1
- Cincinnati Reds: Ryan Hanigan, 8.0
- Cleveland Guardians: Corey Kluber, 32.5
- Colorado Rockies: Vinny Castilla, 17.5
- Detroit Tigers: Damion Easley, 17.8
- Houston Astros: Collin McHugh, 10.6
- Kansas City Royals: David DeJesus, 18.1
- Los Angeles Angels: Troy Percival, 16.8
- Los Angeles Dodgers: Hideo Nomo, 15.2
- Miami Marlins: Cliff Floyd, 16.9
- Milwaukee Brewers: Carlos Gomez, 18.9
- Minnesota Twins: Denard Span, 17.2
- New York Mets: Dwight Gooden, 41.6
- New York Yankees: Hideki Matsui, 20.4
- Oakland A’s: Jose Canseco, 27.2
- Philadelphia Phillies: Pat Burrell, 16.9
- Pittsburgh Pirates: Todd Ritchie, 7.2
- San Diego Padres: Wil Myers, 12.3
- San Francisco Giants: Randy Winn, 12.3
- Seattle Mariners: Nelson Cruz, 17.1
- St. Louis Cardinals: Michael Wacha, 8.8
- Texas Rangers: Julio Franco, 20.2
- Toronto Blue Jays: Jose Bautista, 38.3
- Washington Nationals: Wilson Ramos, 10.5
Given this roster to work with, every pitcher on the list was given a spot, so sorting out a starting rotation and bullpen was the easy part.
- Dwight Gooden
- Corey Kluber
- Hideo Nomo
- Eric Bedard
- Steve Trachsel
- Collin McHugh
- Todd Ritchie
- Michael Wacha
- Troy Percival
The start of Dwight Gooden’s career is unmatched as he just so utterly dominant as to be deemed a freak of nature and surely one of the greatest subjects of ‘what-ifs’ muttered around the country. He is followed by two-time Cy Young Corey Kluber and then 1995 Rookie of the Year and international sensation Hideo Nomo, who took the baseball world by storm in the late 1990’s.
Then there is Eric Bedard, one of the more dependable starting pitchers of the mid-2000s. The rotation is rounded out with Steve Trachsel, who has been unaffectionately dubbed ‘The Human Rain Delay.’
Todd Ritchie, who before the experiment had never registered in my psyche (the dude doesn’t even have a biography listed on Baseball Reference). He was a solid starting pitcher for the Pirates at the turn of the century, but his peak was short-lived, and was out of the game after a brief stint with Tampa Bay in 2004.
Collin McHugh was a vastly underrated starting pitcher for the Astros and then a vastly underrated reliever for the Astros. He was just an exceptional pitcher for a long length of time.
Michael Wacha was looking to be one of the next great pitchers in baseball before injuries derailed those hopes. However, he still cobbled together a solid career with the Cardinals.
During the mid-90s through the early 2000s, it was hard to find a more dependable reliever than Troy Percival, thus making an excellent closer for this limited pitching staff.
However, working through a feasible starting lineup in which all the position players are put in their respective defensive positions while also maintaining a decent starting lineup and bench was a tad more difficult.
After some deliberation, this is the finished product.
- Julio Franco, 2B
- Wade Boggs, 3B
- Jose Bautista, RF
- Jose Canseco, LF
- Hideki Matsui, DH
- Wil Myers, 1B
- Wilson Ramos, C
- David DeJesus, CF
- Yunel Escobar, SS
Going through the order, Julio Franco is a perfect table setter. During his time with Texas, he had a .382 OBP% and a 129 wRC+; a perfect leadoff hitter. Franco sets the table for Hall of Famer Wade Boggs, who easily had the highest bWAR of any player on one team. A decade of dominance that despite being marred by a lackluster 11th season, placed Boggs on the Hall of Fame trajectory.
In the three-spot is the biggest power threat in the lineup, Jose Bautista, who famously played all around the baseball map before finally finding a niche and becoming a prolific power hitter in Toronto.
My 1-2-3 were the easiest to lock in...after those decisions however, came some difficulty in finding spots to plug in hitters where they’d be able to play defense as well as complement the lineup.
I wanted to keep the R-L-R pattern going through the final six spots in the order, while also presenting solid offensive potential. But unfortunately, with the options available, that just wasn’t possible.
Jose Canseco slots in at clean-up, the man who famously pioneered the 40-40 season among some other things in baseball.
Following Canseco is Hideki Matsui, a player who despite always being a strong and consistent player was always overshadowed due to the market he played in. Despite some injury-plagued seasons, Matsui still managed a 124 wRC+ over his seven seasons in pinstripes.
Then we have Wil Myers, the 2013 American League Rookie of the Year. He was able to make this roster as he is the only player to play primarily first base with the team he was taken from.
Wilson Ramos hits 7th to kick off the bottom third of the order. At times he provided some explosive offensive seasons with the Nationals, including one year in which would be awarded a Silver Slugger.
David DeJesus, who so quietly was an exceptional baseball player for many years, certainly merited a spot in the starting lineup. Although he never hit for much power or stole that many bases, he was excellent defensively and knew instinctively how to get on base. Any GM would love a David DeJesus on their team.
For the final spot in the lineup, I turned to defensive extraordinaire and powder keg, Yunel Escobar. Perhaps the smoothest shortstop the Rays have ever had grace the field, Yunel also provided plenty of offensive support, evidenced by his 115 wRC+ from 2007 to 2009 while with Atlanta.
Rounding out the roster, here is the bench:
- Pat Burrell, 3B/OF
- Cliff Floyd, OF
- Alexei Ramirez, INF
- Ryan Hanigan, C
Each of these player on the bench were chosen specifically for their attributes that could affect a game in the later stages. The duo of Pat Burrell and Cliff Floyd could be invaluable assets in a game that comes down to matchups, with the added benefit that they can both play all around the outfield and Burrell can also play some at third base; Floyd would also have the ability to pinch-run if called upon.
Alexei Ramirez, a player that despite not being that great at getting on base, provided excellent contact and power potential to go along with excellent defense that made him among the best shortstops in all of baseball for several years during the early 2010s.
Then Ryan Hanigan makes the roster due to there being a need for a second catcher and he fits the bill.
Overall it was a fun little thought exercise to see what kind of team I could put together within the restraints I set for myself.
What changes would you have made?