History is still very much being written for the Tampa Bay Rays. For a team that failed to win over 70 games for each of its first 11 years of existence, heroes and MVPs have been sparse. Of course, the success of the past four years has given the franchise reason to believe that there are individual players whose contributions are incredibly valuable to the team.
Using Wins Above Replacement (WAR), I was able to pinpoint the 10 most valuable (Devil) Rays of all time. Some of these players are not at all surprising. Others,however, may cause an eyebrow or two to raise.
From a wünderkind pitcher to a journeyman shortstop, here are the 10 most valuable Tampa Bay Rays players of all time.
Rays WAR: 10.4
Highest single-season WAR: 4.7 in 2011
Statistics: 41-26, 3.38 ERA, 8.13 K/9, 520 K
In only his third season as a starter, the big lefty has established himself as one of the most dominant southpaws in baseball. There are many, many bright seasons ahead for David Price, and the fact that he is already on this list speaks volumes about his talent.
Rays WAR: 10.7
Highest single-season WAR: 4.7 in 2004
Career statistics (with Rays): .287 average, 128 HR, 449 RBI, 870 hits
Huff was one of the first really effective mashers in the post-"Hit Show" era for the Devil Rays. While old veterans Vinny Castilla and Greg Vaughn stunk up the joint, Huff proved to be a lone bright spot for the Devil Rays in the early part of last decade.
Rays WAR: 13.8
Highest single-season WAR: 4.3 in 2005
Career statistics (with Rays): .287 average, 550 hits, 283 runs scored, 88 steals
Lugo is one of those players that has gone forgotten in Rays' franchise history. The truth is that he actually was a very valuable player—he could field, get on base and run the bases well. He never turned any heads, but he did a great job at shortstop in his time for the Devil Rays.
Rays WAR: 13.9
Highest single-season WAR: 6.0 in 2007
Career statistics (with Rays): .238 average, 144 home runs, 407 RBI, .516 slugging
Peña was a truly pivotal player for the franchise. Not only was he a great contributor on the field, mashing home runs and making great plays at first base, but he was also a fan-favorite. A failed prospect who found new life in Tampa Bay, Peña made the most of his four years in the organization, helping to carry the team to the playoffs twice.
Rays WAR: 16.5
Highest single-season WAR: 5.3 in 2007
Career statistics (with Rays): 55-44, 3.92 ERA, 9.43 K/9
The promise that Kazmir showed with the Rays is what makes his current situation even more depressing. Currently out of a job and unlikely to make it back to the big leagues, Kazmir is only a fraction of the pitcher he was the Rays. He was a truly exciting talent, racking up strikeouts and captivating the crowds. He was the first great Rays pitcher.
Rays WAR: 18.7
Highest single-season WAR: 8.7 in 2009
Career statistics: .257 average, 72 home runs, 314 RBI, 317 runs, 36.9 UZR
To say that Ben Zobrist is versatile is a severe understatement. Zobrist can not only play multiple positions, but he can excel at them. He plays an excellent second base and right field, especially. But more than that, he is a great doubles hitter who has provided some great offensive production during his career. He is a rare player who has been on the team for all three playoff appearances.
Rays WAR: 19.8
Highest single-season WAR: 5.0 in 2008
Career statistics: .257 average, 769 hits, 90 HR, 369 RBI, 201 steals
Love him or hate him, B.J. Upton has been a mainstay with the Rays for the last eight years. Though there is a good chance 2011 was his final season in Tampa Bay, his contribution to the team is undeniable. Between his excellent speed, inconsistent-yet-promising offense, or magical postseason in 2008, Upton has never been short of excitement.
Rays WAR: 21.0
Highest single-season WAR: 4.9 in 2011
Career statistics: 72-63, 3.96 ERA, 16 CG, 1,027 K
Shields, who finished third in this year's AL Cy Young voting after having a career year, has been the longest-tenured Rays pitcher. He has been a major part of the rotation from the day he came into the majors in 2006. "Big Game James" had his struggles in 2010, but bounced back with an ace-like season of epic proportions in 2011.
Rays WAR: 26.9
Highest single-season WAR: 7.6 in 2009 and 2010
Career statistics: .274 average, 113 HR, 401 RBI, 573 hits, 54.8 UZR
What can be said about Evan Longoria? He is the most talented hitter in franchise history, the greatest defensive player in franchise history, and has arguably provided the two most memorable moments in franchise history (catching the playoff-clinching out in 2008, his incredible Wild Card-clinching home run this year). With only four years under his belt, it's exciting to think about what Longoria can still accomplish in his career.
Rays WAR: 36.8
Highest single-season WAR: 7.6 in 2010
Career statistics (with Rays): .296 average, 1,480 hits, 104 HR, 592 RBI, 409 SB, 119 UZR
No matter how you felt about Crawford signing with the Red Sox in 2011, you have to respect what a valuable asset he was for the Rays in his nine years with the team. Crawford did everything—get on base, steal bases, hit home runs, make catches and make throws. His very presence made the team significantly better, and it was around Crawford that the Rays' aggressive style of play was developed. There has been no more valuable contributor to this franchise than Carl Crawford.