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Yankees Trade Partner History: Tampa Bay Rays

The two division rivals have completed precious few swaps since the Rays’ inception.

MLB: JUL 08 Yankees at Blue Jays Photo by Jeff Chevrier/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The division rivalry between the Yankees and Rays has heated up over the last half-decade, and as with their other rivals (notably, the Red Sox and Mets) New York has seldom lined up for a trade with the outfit from Tampa Bay. In fact, in the Rays’ 25-year history, the two teams have completed just seven trades, five of which have involved swapping a player for cash considerations.

Best Trade

December 29, 2020: The Rays trade Blake Snell to the Yankees for Deivi García, Clarke Schmidt, Anthony Seigler, and Kyle Higashioka.

December 16, 2023: The Rays trade Tyler Glasnow and Manuel Margot to the Yankees for Chase Hampton and Everson Pereira.

It was impossible to pick a winner between these two blockbusters. The Yankees have been on a seemingly endless search for starting pitching yet hesitant to play in the deep end of the free agent market. Meanwhile, the Rays pitching factory churns out arm after arm yet would prefer to trade their best pitchers once they become expensive. Therefore, it’s no surprise that the two sides lined up on a pair of trades that gave New York a stretch with the deadliest rotation in baseball while stocking the Rays’ farm system full of talent.

Snell had injury and inconsistency-marred campaigns in 2021 and 2022 for the Bombers, but rediscovered his dominant form in the final year of the extension he signed with the Rays in 2019, his second-place Cy Young finish behind Gerrit Cole providing the perfect platform into free agency. Glasnow, meanwhile, immediately signed a five-year, $136.5 million contract upon his trade to the Bronx while Margot provides much-needed depth as the fourth outf...

Oh, wait ... neither of these actually happened, did they? It’s understandable that the Rays would be loath to improve their division rivals by trading them a pair of aces in a three year span, and case in point, Tampa Bay sent Snell and Glasnow about as far away as you can get from New York — on the West Coast and playing for the NL West.

As we know, Snell was traded to the Padres for pitching prospects Luis Patiño and Cole Wilcox and catcher Blake Hunt and Francisco Mejía while Glasnow and Margot were dealt to the Dodgers for pitcher Ryan Pepiot and outfielder Jon DeLuca.

Worst Trade

June 17, 2021: The Yankees trade Mike Ford to the Rays for a player to be named later and cash considerations. The Rays send Aldenis Sanchez to the Yankees on July 1, 2021, to complete the trade.

It’s not so much that sending Ford to the Rays hurt — he was batting .133 with a 60 wRC+ at the time of his trade and would be designated for assignment by Tampa Bay two months after arriving — but it’s what the Yankees did with his vacated 40-man roster spot that makes this the worst trade. They used his spot to add Zack Britton to the active roster, and he would go on to pitch to a 5.89 ERA and 5.46 FIP in 22 appearances totaling 18.1 innings before going down with Tommy John surgery. Ford has since bounced around the Nationals, Mariners (three times), Giants, Braves, and Angels while Britton retired after failing to land with a team in 2023.

Most Overlooked Trade

February 20, 2018: The Diamondbacks trade Brandon Drury to the Yankees, Anthony Banda and players to be named later to the Rays. The Yankees trade Nick Solak to the Rays, Taylor Widener to the Diamondbacks. The Rays trade Steven Souza Jr. to the Diamondbacks. The Diamondbacks send Sam McWilliams and Colin Poche to the Rays on May 1, 2018 to complete the trade.

Drury had an unremarkable tenure in pinstripes, slashing .176/.263/.275 with a 50 wRC+ in 18 games in 2018, and missed almost three months while suffering from blurred vision and migraines. The real value he provided to the Yankees was as part of trade alongside Billy McKinney to the Blue Jays that landed the Yankees J.A. Happ when New York desperately needed starting pitching near the 2018 deadline.

Happ was nails for the Bombers in his first half season, going 7-0 with a 2.69 ERA and 63 strikeouts in 11 starts totaling 63.2 innings. This led to the inadvisable decision to re-sign the veteran lefty in free agency to a two-year, $34 million deal with a vesting option for a third following the 2018 season, and frankly very little went right for Happ after that point. He surrendered a walk-off home run to Carlos Correa in Game 2 of the 2019 ALCS before entering as the bulk reliever in the harebrained Deivi García opener flop of Game 2 of the ALDS against the Rays. The Yankees even manipulated the number of starts he made in 2020 to make sure his option year for 2021 did not vest.

Weirdest Trade

April 4, 2022: The Rays trade David McKay to the Yankees for cash considerations.
June 23, 2022: The Yankees trade David McKay to the Rays for cash considerations.

At the start of the 2022 season, the Rays traded former top prospect and relief pitcher David McKay to the Yankees for $1 to open a spot on their 40-man roster. He made two scoreless appearances for the Yankees before being traded back to the Rays for cash considerations 80 days after his initial acquisition to make room for Albert Abreu, who himself had been acquired from the Royals. McKay would make a great pub trivia subject — back in 2018, he was traded from the Royals to the Mariners for, you guessed it, $1! He was also designated for assignment three times in 2022. Poor guy!

Previously in the Trade Partner History series

Miami Marlins
Full list to date