He had one year left on his contract with the Mariners, but the team made a deal with the fledgling Rays, then the Devil Rays, and let Piniella go home in exchange for outfielder Randy Winn and infielder Antonio Perez.
He's the most recent manager to be traded, though that's likely to change soon as it's expected that Ozzie Guillen, released from his contract with the White Sox on Monday, will join the Marlins in exchange for two players.
"Seattle allowed me to come here," Piniella said. "Tampa Bay is where I had to go. That was fine with me. In Seattle, I was too far from home."
It wasn't the first time Piniella had been traded. On Aug. 4, 1964, he was the player to be named later, completing a transaction between the Senators and Orioles, in which he went to Baltimore for pitcher Buster Narum.
On March 10, 1966, Piniella was traded by the Orioles to the Indians -- the team with which he originally signed in 1962 -- for catcher Cam Carreon. Two years later, he was selected in the 1968 expansion draft by the Seattle Pilots, who began play in 1969, then traded the following April to the Royals for pitcher John Gelnar and outfielder Steve Whitaker. Piniella went on to win the 1969 American League Rookie of the Year Award.
But his life changed on Dec. 7, 1973, when the Royals sent him to the Yankees for Lindy McDaniel, a 37-year-old reliever with 19 seasons in the big leagues.
"That's the best thing that ever happened to me," Piniella said. "It's the biggest break I ever got in my career. I played in Kansas City five years and got traded to New York. When I first learned about the trade, I actually cried. I was living in Kansas City and we had a young team and we were close-knit.
"I spent the next 17 years of my life in the Yankee organization and was able to play with some really great players."
When Piniella made the move to Tampa Bay, he was not the first manager to be "traded." In 1960, Cubs owner Phillip K. Wrigley switched his manager, Charlie Grimm, for announcer Lou Boudreau, who was working for the team's flagship station, WGN. At the end of the season, Wrigley traded Boudreau back to WGN for Grimm, who wasn't reinstated but became part of the team's infamous "college of coaches."
In November 1976, the Pirates dealt catcher Manny Sanguillen to the Athletics for $100,000 and their manager, Chuck Tanner.
It wasn't the first time Piniella put his family first. In 2010, he decided to retire from managing and leave the Cubs in August so he could return to Tampa to take care of his mother. She has good days and bad days, Piniella said Tuesday, but is doing well.
"I asked to come home," Piniella said of the Mariners-Rays deal. "I asked to get closer to home and had a year left on my contract, and Seattle wasn't interested in letting me go and, at the same time, they understood my situation. They said, 'All right, if you want to go home, then Tampa Bay is where you're going.' That was fine with me."
With Guillen's abrupt exit from the White Sox and possible move to the Marlins, Piniella's switch is being talked about again.
"It's a unique thing when you get traded," Piniella said. "I spent three years in Tampa Bay and enjoyed it. I was told when I came here we would increase the payroll. I said, if they gave me a payroll of $45 to $50 million, we could win. Unfortunately, we never got over $24 million. I got sort of beat up a little bit. It was a learning experience."
In three years with the Rays, Piniella compiled a .412 winning percentage (200-285).
He watched some of Guillen's news conference on Monday.
"For Ozzie, it's a new start if it happens," Piniella said. "They have a new ballpark in Miami. Ozzie is very familiar with that organization because he was there as a coach. My understanding and talking to baseball people, the owner, Jeff Loria, likes him a lot."
Piniella had no say in which players went from the Rays to the Mariners to complete his deal.
"I was naive enough to think I could win here," he said of Tampa Bay. "With the young talent we had and the young talent we played, I thought if we could expand the payroll, we had a chance to be competitive."
In two seasons, the Rays went from 55 wins in 2002 to 70 wins in 2004 under Piniella. And he was home.
"I did the best I could," he said.