With the Rays' new payroll total above $60 million principal owner Stuart Sternberg announced that unlike previous seasons the Rays had no more flexibility to make additions during the upcoming season. In the 2008 season, despite the Rays being contenders the entire season, attendance was still among the lowest in the league. Sternberg also stated the only team that did not have an average attendance higher than the league average in the season following a World Series appearance was the Florida Marlins, who did so twice after each of their championship seasons. He accepted that the Rays might become the third occurrence, saying about the 2008 season, "it wasn't the best year to win," because of the current state of the economy.
Following a lackluster start the Rays finished May with an overall record of 25–28 and just half a game out of last place but pulled within 4 games of the AL East and 1½ back in the wild card toward the All-Star break. Carl Crawford, Jason Bartlett, Ben Zobrist, and Evan Longoria were named as All-Stars for the American League in the All-Star Game with Longoria earning the start at third base but was unable to play due to injury. Carlos Peña was added as an injury replacement and participated in the 2009 Home Run Derby. In the All-Star Game Carl Crawford won MVP honors by making a leaping catch at the wall to take away Brad Hawpe's home run.
In August Iwamura returned from injuries sustained in May and the Rays traded Scott Kazmir to the Angels for two minor league prospects and a player to be named later. Kazmir left the team as the all-time leader in wins and strikeouts.
The Rays stumbled in September, losing 11 games in a row at one point, and lost Carlos Peña for the remainder of the season to a broken finger from a hit by pitch. At the time Peña was leading the American League in home runs. The Rays clinched a winning season but the team did not make the post-season finishing with an 84–78 record, good enough for 3rd place. On October 2 B.J. Upton became the first Tampa Bay player to hit for the cycle.
After the 2009 season second baseman Akinori Iwamura was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates for relief pitcher Jesse Chavez who was than traded to the Atlanta Braves for closer Rafael Soriano.By WIKI