Prior to the first game played by each of the new teams, a draft was held the year before for the new teams to attempt to put together a roster of players for the next season. The rules for the availability of players changed slightly from 1962 to 1998, but what was common was the opportunity for the new teams to decide which players they could use from the existing teams in MLB. Over a series of 14 posts, I will review the expansion drafts of each of these newer 14 teams. Included are trades made following the draft and which players were taken first overall. Without further due, here is a recap of the 1997 expansion draft of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
The draft was held similarly to that of the 1992 expansion draft. Each team was to select a total of 35 players, 14 in the first and second round and 7 in the 3rd round. No more than one player could be selected from any team in a round. Each MLB team could protect 15 players, then an additional three after each of the first two rounds. The coin toss that determined the first pick was the only difference of the past draft, as the winner had a choice of either the first pick or the second and third picks and the first pick of the second and third rounds. The Devils Rays won the toss and decided to pick first.
The Devil Rays selected Florida Marlins LHP Tony Saunders with the first pick in the expansion draft. They followed it up with OF Quinton McCracken of the Colorado Rockies and OF Bobby Abreu of the Houston Astros. The remained of their top ten picks included Chicago Cubs 2B Miguel Cairo, Toronto Blue Jays OF Rich Butler, Atlanta Braves 3B Bobby Smith, Pittsburgh Pirates RHP Jason Johnson, Cincinnati Reds 1B Dmitri Young, Baltimore Orioles RHP Estaban Yan and St Louis Cardinals C Mike DiFelice.
Among other noticeable first round picks were Detroit Tigers OF Bubba Trammell, Seattle Mariners SS Andy Sheets and RHP Dennis Springer of the Anaheim Angels. Their first selection of the 2nd round was New York Yankees RHP Brian Boehringer. Some top 2nd round picks were Philadelphia Phillies OF Kevin Sefcik, Boston Red Sox RHP Jim Mecir, Rockies RHP Bryan Rekar and Athletics 1B prospect Steve Cox. Their first 3rd round pick was Marlins OF Randy Winn. The Devil Rays also added Cubs OF Brooks Kieschnick and Indians INF Herbert Perry.
As with the other expansion drafts, all teams had to wait until the conclusion to make trades. The Devil Rays traded Abreu to the Phillies for SS Kevin Stocker. They would then trade Sheets and Boehringer to the Padres for C John Flaherty. The Rays sent Young back to the Reds for OF Mike Kelly. They also purchased power hitting 1B Fred McGriff from the Braves.
Recap of the 1997 expansion draft: Tampa Bay Devil Rays: (source: wikipedia.org)
The starting lineup for the 1998 Tampa Bay Rays: (source: wikipedia.org)
Quinton McCracken, cf
Miguel Cairo, 2b
Wade Boggs, 3b
Fred McGriff, 1b
Mike Kelly, lf
Paul Sorrento, dh
John Flaherty, c
Dave Martinez, rf
Kevin Stocker, ss
Wilson Alvarez, p
The Devil Rays, under new manager Larry Rothschild, would finish in last place in the AL East with a record of 63-99.