The Tampa Bay Rays shocked the baseball world on Monday by agreeing to terms on a contract extension with third baseman Evan Longoria. In doing so, they've opened up speculation about what they're willing to spend on after years of pinching pennies.
A franchise that finishes near the bottom in attendance and has been identified as one of MLB's most cost-effective groups made a move that falls directly in contrast with past transactions.
The deal, which could make Longoria a Ray until 2023, tacks on another $100 million to his current deal and would make him a Ray until he turns 38. That being said, it could be said that this deal is one of the best in baseball.
Still, Tampa Bay and GM Andrew Friedman are taking a calculated risk that Longoria can stay healthy and produce over the course of this deal. He now has virtually nothing at risk in terms of his contract, so will that loss of motivation continue to spill over into his injury history?
As noted by CBS's Jon Heyman, the Rays are banking on the fact that the minor injuries that Longoria has suffered throughout his career won't affect him going forward. When he's healthy he's elite, but he is crippling the franchise from the pine.
However, when healthy, his stats speak for themselves.
Up until his injury-plagued 2012, Longo had at least one MVP vote every season, hit 22 home runs or more and finished with 118 hits or more in each of his first four seasons. The 2008 Rookie of the Year has a career .276 batting average and 456 RBIs over his five seasons in the bigs.
That kind of production also translates to sabermetric stats, as noted by ESPN's Stats and Information on Twitter:
Evan Longoria agrees to 6-yr $100M extension. Since his rookie year in 2008, his 28.5 WAR is 4th-highest among all position players— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 26, 2012
When looking at the Tampa Bay roster, Longoria is now a stalwart with many other pieces still up in the air. Aces David Price and James Shields will still be around, but both will require upwards of $100 million at the end of their current contracts.
Also, center fielder B.J. Upton is likely headed for a new team, with Boston and the New York Yankees still in play for his services, among others. Longoria now assumes the role of the long-term face of this franchise just by signing on the dotted line.
It was a big leap by management, one that doesn't fall in line with many strategies this club has used in the past.
It's clear that the front office is making a plunge towards keeping this team in tact. By spreading the money out over a long period of time, it helps to ensure that the franchise can put money towards keeping players they want in the long-term.
It's also a risky signing because, for Longoria, entire seasons could be wiped out due to injury and the team would still be on the hook for huge chunks of cash. Either way, it looks like the writers of the commercials for New Era caps will be ecstatic, as they'll have plenty of new material for advertising in the future.
Will the deal pan out for the Rays? It certainly goes against past history, but it's clear the city and the ownership has a soft spot for the young star. He'll now be in Tampa (or whatever city the Rays are based out of going forward) for a long time, but a lot can happen in 11 years.
Ethan Grant is a featured columnist for B/R's Breaking News Team.
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