The season may be over for the Tampa Bay Rays, but there are plenty remnants of the franchise littered throughout the upcoming World Series matchup between the Texas Rangers and Arizona Diamondbacks.
The list must start, of course, with Evan Longoria, who played for the Rays from 2008 through the 2017 season and is still considered the best player in franchise history. The team recently unveiled a statue of Longoria that now beckons fans as they approach Tropicana Field. In a recent article, Topkin notes that the team will eventually retire Longoria’s #3 once his playing days are officially over.
However, it’s not just Longoria who has former ties with the Rays. Marc Topkin listed a total of 14 people who had either played or coached for the Rays:
Merrill Kelly, RHP
Originally drafted by the Rays in the 8th round of the 2010 draft, Kelly toiled within the organization’s farm system for several seasons before making his way to Korea where he enjoyed great success. Kelly returned stateside in 2019 and has been a main cog in the Diamondbacks rotation ever since.
During the 2023 season, Kelly started 30 games for Arizona and finished with a 12-8 record, compiling a 3.29 ERA | 3.85 FIP and accruing 3.2 fWAR over 177 2⁄3 innings pitched.
Tommy Pham, OF
Pham joined the Rays at the 2018 trade deadline and instantly became a fan favorite due to his aggressive playing style and attitude. His time with the Rays was short lived and marred by injury, but that didn’t prevent him from putting up stellar numbers. From the trade deadline through the end of the 2019 season, Pham hit .287/.385/.485 with 28 HR over just 184 games, finishing with 138 wRC+ and 5.6 fWAR.
The slugger would be traded to the Padres following the 2019 season and through a frenzy of signings and trades, he is now a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks, joining the Snakes at the 2023 trade deadline. While a member of Arizona, Pham has hit .241/.304/415 with 6 HR over 217 plate appearances.
Ryan Thompson, RHP
Selected by the Rays during the minor league phase of the 2018 Rule 5 draft, Thompson eventually made his big league debut for the team during the pandemic afflicted season that was 2020. Known for his quirky delivery style, Thompson was able to generate success due to his ability to sling the ball in the mid-to-upper 90’s from an extreme side-arm angle. From his introduction to the Rays roster in 2020 through the end of the 2022 season, Thompson was a key ingredient in the Rays bullpen, but he would lose his place during a dismal 2023 campaign and eventually be released.
Thompson quickly latched on with the Diamondbacks, with whom he regained his mojo. Pitching in just 13 games down the stretch for Arizona, Thompson allowed just 1 run via a solo homerun over 13 innings pitched.
Evan Longoria, 3B
The #3 overall selection in the 2006 draft, Longoria made his big league debut with the Rays in 2008. He would serve as an integral part of the roster throughout his tenure (signing two long-termcontract extensions), which ended in a 2017 December trade to the San Francisco Giants.
During his Rays career, he hit .270/.341/.483 with 261 homeruns, finishing with 48.3 fWAR and a 123 wRC+.
As for the trophy shelf, he was named the 2008 American League Rookie of the Year, he was selected to three All-Star teams, won three Gold Gloves, and was awarded a Silver Slugger in 2009. Longoria also received votes for the AL’s Most Valuable Player for the following seasons: 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, and 2016.
Longoria signed with the Diamondbacks as a free agent for the 2023 season and over 74 games, he hit .223/.295/.422 with 11 HR, accumulating 0.1 fWAR.
Dan Carlson, Assistant Pitching Coach
Carlson has a unique place in history as one of the 35 players to have been selected in the 1997 expansion draft by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. He pitched for the Devil Rays during their inaugural season, appearing in 10 games and allowing 15 runs over 17 2⁄3 innings pitched.
After the 1998 season, Carlson became a free agent and last pitched in the Majors in 1999 for the Diamondbacks. After his playing days were over, Carlson joined the Diamondbacks as a pitching coach, and worked with the organization across multiple levels before becoming the Minor League Pitching Coordinator in 2013 and and promoted to Assistant Pitching Coach in 2022.
Damion Easley, Assistant Hitting Coach
Damion Easley had a 16 year playing career at the Major League level, enjoying great success, particularly with the Detroit Tigers, with whom he became the highest paid second baseman in MLB history (at the time). Later on, he’d become the highest paid player to ever be released.
It was after this release that the Devil Rays swooped in and signed Easley. But, his best days were behind him and he hit just .187/.202/.262 with -1.3 fWAR over just 36 games played, making him among the candidates for worst players in franchise history.
Easley managed to eek out a few more quality seasons before finally calling it quits after the 2008 season.
Since retiring, Easley as taken coaching positions, first with the San Diego Padres in their lower level and then taking over as their main Hitting Coach. He would move on to be the Assistant Hitting Coach for the Diamondbacks, a position he has held since the start of the 2022 season.
Brock Burke, LHP
A third round selection in the 2014 draft by the Tampa Bay Rays, Burke spent several season within the organization developing into a solid pitching prospect. He would eventually be involved in a three team trade that brought Emilio Pagan to the Rays and sent Burke to the Texas Rangers.
While with Texas, Burke has only improved, peaking at #10 on their prospect rankings according to Baseball America. He made his big league debut in 2019, but due to injuries, didn’t return to the big leagues until 2022, when he emerged as a key component of the Rangers bullpen.
However, Burke took a step backward in 2023; over the course of the season, he compiled a 4.37 ERA | 4.90 FIP over 59 2⁄3 innings pitched across 53 appearances.
Matt Bush, RHP
Once a top prospect, Bush made headlines for all of the wrong reasons during the early stages of his professional career. He had a history of DUI charges and violent off field encounters. The Rays gave him a second chance with a 2012 signing, but his return ended during Spring Training. He commandeered Brandon Guyer’s vehicle for a drunken joyride that resulted in his hitting and severely injuring an elderly motorcyclist.
Bush was placed on the restricted list and released following the season’s end.
After serving a brief three year prison term for the incident, Bush’s ability to throw a ball over 90mph helped him find his way back to baseball. He split the 2022 campaign between Milwaukee and Texas; he would be released by Milwaukee in 2023 and subsequently picked back up by the Rangers, but didn’t throw a pitch for them this past season. Bush has not been selected to the Rangers playoff roster, but could be activated if needed.
Nathaniel Lowe, 1B
When the Rays selected Nathaniel Lowe in the 13th round of the 2016 draft, it could have been thought at the time that he was just taken because the Rays had selected his younger brother in the first round of the same draft.
However, the elder Lowe quickly proved himself an excellent prospect as he mashed his way through the Rays system and to the upper levels in just a few years.
He made his big league debut in 2019 and showcased his hitting ability. During his Rays tenure from 2019 through 2020, Lowe hit .251/.322/.447 with 11 HR over 245 plate appearances, registering 107 wRC+ and accruing 0.4 fWAR.
Following the 2020 campaign, the Rays traded Lowe to the Texas Rangers, with whom he quickly secured a starting role and a place among the Rangers most consistent offensive performers. He would be awarded a Silver Slugger for his performance during the 2022 campaign in which he finished the year with 141 wRC+.
This past season, Lowe hit .262/.360/.414 with 17 HR over 724 plate appearances.
Nate Eovaldi, RHP
Eovlaldi is just 33 years old, but he has already gone through the gauntlet in his baseball career. While in high school, Eovaldi underwent Tommy John surgery, but was still considered one of the premier pitching prospects and thus was taken in the 2011 draft, albeit in the 11th round. Eovaldi quickly became one of the top pitching prospects in baseball and was looking like an up and coming stud.
Unfortunately while with the Yankees in 2016, Eovaldi suffered a torn UCL and required a second Tommy John surgery.
This is when he joined the Tampa Bay Rays, as they signed him to a two year deal (the first year to allow him to rehab and the second for him to perform on field). Eovaldi pitched for the Rays in 2018 and compiled a 3-4 record with a 4.26 ERA | 4.28 FIP over 57 innings pitched across 10 games. He would be traded at the deadline to the Boston Red Sox, with whom he’d spend the next several seasons, including a career year in 2021.
Eovaldi signed with the Rangers this past offseason and he rewarded them with an excellent campaign in which he finished with a 12-5 record and a 3.63 ERA | 3.88 FIP over 144 innings pitched across 25 games.
Jonah Heim, C
At the 2016 trade deadline, the Rays were shopping Steve Pearce around the league and they identified a player with the Baltimore Orioles system that they needed to target.
Thus, a trade was made and Steve Pearce was sent to Baltimore for low-level catching prospect, Jonah Heim.
The young catcher would be in the Rays system for barely over a year, when the Rays traded him to Oakland for Joey Wendle.
Heim made his big league debut with Oakland, but would soon after find himself with yet another organization as he was sent to the Texas Rangers prior to the 2021 season. While with Texas, Heim quickly established himself as an All-Star caliber starting catcher.
This past season was certainly Heim’s best at the big league level as he hit .258/.317/.438 with 18 HR over 501 plate appearances, registering 103 wRC+ and accruing 4.1 fWAR.
Brad Miller, INF
Miller had already been a Major League regular for three seasons prior to the Rays acquiring after the 2015 season. They knew what they were getting; a player that could kind-of-sort-of play shortstop and hit dingers.
Both of those facets of Miller’s game were highlighted during his tenure with the team as Miller’s defense forced the Rays to quickly move him away from shortstop, but his offense kept him in the starting lineup. During his first season with the Rays, Miller crushed 30 homeruns and hit .243/.304/.482 with 111 wRC+, but despite that impressive offensive showing, he merited just 1.4 fWAR.
Miller lost his starting job in 2017 due to his offensive regression and subpar defense. He was be traded to the Milwaukee Brewers for Ji-Man Choi early in the 2018 season. Miller finished his Rays tenure with 310 games played, hitting .231/.315/.427 with 44 HR over 1182 plate appearances and accruing 1.6 fWAR.
Since leaving the Rays, Miller has journeyed all around the league, but has found a home with the Rangers for the past two seasons (despite mustering -1.3 fWAR). In 2023, Miller hit .214/.328/.339 with a homerun over 67 plate appearances. He finished the season on the 60-day IL for a hamstring injury.
Jake Odorizzi, RHP
When the Tampa Bay Rays acquired Odorizzi in the offseason leading up to the 2013 season, he was considered among the best pitching prospects in all of baseball, but he wasn’t even the centerpiece of the deal for Tampa Bay, as it was Wil Myers that really sealed the deal.
However, Odorizzi is the one player from the trade that provided the Rays with the most on field value as he became a fixture in the Rays rotation. After a brief cup of coffee in 2013, Odorizzi joined the Rays rotation full-time in 2014 and from that until his eventual trade prior to the 2018 season, Odorizzi pitched in 127 games (124 starts) and compiled a 40-37 record with a 3.82 ERA | 4.22 FIP and 6.8 fWAR over 698 innings pitched.
Following the trade, Odorizzi enjoyed immense success with the Minnesota Twins, selected as an All-Star during a career year in 2019. Since leaving the Twins following the 2020 season, Odorizzi has bounced between the Houston Astros and Atlanta Braves. He was picked up by the Texas Rangers for the 2023 season, but missed the entire season after undergoing shoulder surgery.
Bobby Wilson, Catching Coach
Bobby Wilson was able to stick around the Majors for a long time despite not being able hit remotely close to league average. His best season, offensively, was in 2010 when he finished with a 94 wRC+.
Wilson came to the Rays in 2015 when the Rays were in dire straights for catching services. The Rays played Wilson in 25 games and over 59 plate appearances, Wilson hit .145/.203/.145, registering a -2 wRC+ and accruing -0.2 fWAR.
Following that brief 2015 stint, Wilson hopped around the league some, but returned to the Rays again in 2016, where he performed decidedly better as he hit .230/.272/.391 with 4 HR over 95 plate appearances, registering 79 wRC+ and 0.4 fWAR.
Wilson would last play in the Majors for the Detroit Tigers in 2019 and then call it quits to pursue a coaching career. His final career line goes as follows: .203/.258/.304 with 18 HR over 1047 plate appearances, registering 2.0 fWAR and 52 wRC+.
Since retiring, Wilson has served as a manager in the Minor Leagues for a year and then took over as the Rangers catching coach following the 2020 season.