5 Deals That Make Tampa Bay Rays' Evan Longoria Signing Look Affordable
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Evan Longoria signed a contract extension last month that could keep the third baseman in a Tampa Bay Rays uniform for the remainder of his career. It was more money than the team has ever invested in a single player (beating Longoria's former contract and pitcher Wilson Alvarez’s five-year, $35 million pact signed in 1998), but was downright affordable when compared to some other long-term contracts around baseball.
According to the Tampa Bay Times' Marc Topkin, Longoria’s extension added six years and $100 million to his current contract, meaning he is signed for the next 10 years for a total of $136.6 million.
Longoria’s new deal incrementally increases his salary each season through the 2022 season, when he is slated to make $19.5 million. He has a team option for $13 million plus incentives in 2023, when he will be 37, or he can be bought out in that final year for $5 million.
Longoria has been one of the most productive third baseman in baseball during his five-year career. He has 162-game averages of a .276 batting average with 33 home runs and 116 RBI. He is also a great defender, having already won two Gold Gloves.
Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan believes that in terms of value, Longoria’s extension is now the most team-friendly contract in baseball. The signing was a coup for the Rays, who annually operate with one of the lowest payrolls in baseball.
In the competitive market for premium players, the Rays did very well to essentially land Longoria for the remainder of his career at what is likely a fraction of what the cost would be if they ever let him become a free agent.
Click through to see what five current contracts make Longoria’s extension look downright affordable.
David Wright: Eight-Year, $138 Million Contract
Wright's newest contract could become an albatross for the Mets.
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One way to measure the value of Longoria’s contract is comparing it to another recent extension by a star third baseman who is also the face of his franchise. David Wright of the New York Mets was recently inked to his new extension, as reported by MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo.
Wright’s career production is similar to that of Longoria. He has 162-game career averages of a .301 batting average with 26 home runs and 105 RBI. He has also won two Gold Gloves and is considered an elite defender.
After considering the similarities in their past production, Longoria appears to have an edge on Wright moving forward. He is three years younger. With third base being a physically demanding position, it’s reasonable to assume the younger player has a better chance of longevity.
Other than last season, when he only played 64 games because of injury, Longoria has had a WAR of 4.5 or greater every season. By contrast, Wright has exceeded a 2.9 WAR just once in the past four years.
Although they are comparable players to this point, Longoria appears to have much more upside for the future.
Ryan Zimmerman: 11-Year, $135 Million Contract
Once the face of the franchise, Zimmerman has been passed by younger stars in recent years.
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The Washington Nationals’ Ryan Zimmerman is another third baseman who is often compared to Longoria. However, his lengthy big-dollar extension doesn't offer the same value.
Zimmerman’s current contract is actually the result of tacking on a six-year, $100 million extension last offseason to an existing deal, as reported by ESPN’s Buster Olney. It includes an $18 million team option or a $2 million team buyout in 2020, when Zimmerman will be 35.
Zimmerman received a full no-trade clause in his contract. This means that he can block any trade, even if he becomes a detriment to Washington.
Longoria has no trade restrictions in his deal. It was a conscious decision on his part according to MLB.com’s Bill Chastain, who quoted Longoria on the matter:
I told them from the beginning that I didn't want to be the one sucking up all the payroll so we can't afford anybody else, because it's not giving us the best chance to win.
With one Gold Glove already to his name, Zimmerman is as skilled a defensive third baseman as there is in baseball. However, his bat lags a bit behind Longoria.
During his career, Longoria has never posted an OPS+ below 127. Zimmerman has exceeded that number only twice in his seven years as a regular, and not since 2010.
Not only is Zimmerman a notch below Longoria as a total player, but his no-trade clause makes his deal much less team-friendly.
Prince Fielder: Nine-Year, $214 Million Contract
It will be interesting to see how Fielder produces as he ages.
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Prince Fielder’s contract might be currently flying under the radar because his Detroit Tigers made the 2012 World Series. However, for its duration, it doesn't come close to matching Longoria’s deal in value.
The easy thing is pointing to Fielder’s rotund appearance (listed at 275 pounds) and extrapolate the likelihood that he won’t age as well as other players.
SI.com’s Cliff Corcoran wrote that no players listed at more than 260 pounds have ever had an above-average season after the age of 33. After Fielder turns 33, the first baseman will still have three years and $72 million left on his contract.
Fielder’s value is entirely tied to his bat. He has averaged .287 with 36 home runs and 107 RBI per 162 games throughout his career.
Calling Fielder a bad defensive player may be generous. During his eight-year career he has a combined dWAR of -15.3. This means he has cost his teams approximately two wins per season simply by playing him at first instead of an average defender.
Even in the years where he has produced at the plate, Fielder’s poor defense has sometimes diminished his worth. In 2008 and 2010 he hit more than 30 home runs and posted an OPS above .870, but because of his defense, he had a total WAR of 1.3 (An average player is expected to have a WAR of 2.0) in each of those seasons.
Fielder is a one-dimensional player whose hefty contract carries a lot of potential reward, but also a lot of risk.
Troy Tulowitzki: 13-Year, $163 Million Contract
Tulo's deal might look better if he could stay on the field.
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Troy Tulowitzki was in the midst of a seven-year, $45 million contract that ran through 2014 when the Colorado Rockies gave the shortstop a six-year, $118 million extension.
At the time, Tulo’s extension was called a “big mistake” by Yahoo! Sports' Jeff Passan, and it has only gotten worse with time.
When healthy, Tulowitzki is perhaps the best shortstop in baseball. During a seven-year career he has 162-game averages of a .292 batting average with 28 home runs and 102 RBI. He is also a dynamic defender, having won two Gold Gloves and posted four seasons with a dWAR of 2.1 or higher.
The value of Tulowitzki’s contract takes a major hit because of his inability to stay on the field. He has missed an average of 58 games per season during the past three years.
According to Troy E. Renck of the Denver Post, Tulowitzki was supposed to miss up to eight weeks last summer because of a groin injury. He wound up playing just 47 total games, with none coming after May 30.
When he has played, Tulowitzki has not been consistent. His OPS+ has declined for three straight seasons. He has stolen as many as 20 bases in a single season (2009), but only reached double figures once since then.
Unlike Longoria’s gradually rising salaries during his extension, Tulowitzki’s deal is top-heavy. He is owed at least $144 million through the 2021 season, including $20 million per season from 2015-19.
Although he is undeniably talented, Tulowitzki is a riskier and more expensive player than Longoria.
Alex Rodriguez: 10-Year, $275 Million Contract
A-Rod went from being one of the best players in baseball to having one of its worst contracts.
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The prolonged struggles of Rodriguez this past postseason placed his enormous contract squarely in the spotlight.
In seven playoff games in 2012, Rodriguez had just three singles in 25 at-bats, while striking out an astounding 12 times. A New York Daily News poll showed that 72 percent of fans hope to see the third baseman play somewhere else in 2013.
Despite the wishes of the fans, A-Rod isn't going anywhere. He is owed $114 million plus possible incentives over the next five seasons. It was also reported by the Associated Press that he will have surgery this winter, causing him to miss at least half of the upcoming season and preventing any possible trade from the Yankees.
If his recovery goes as planned, Rodriguez will be turning 38 around the time he is ready to return to the Yankees next summer. On top of his advancing age, he will also be fighting a spiraling trend in production.
In 2007, the year before he signed his current contract, Rodriguez hit .314 with a league-leading 54 home runs, 156 RBI and a 1.067 OPS. Since then his OPS has gone down for five consecutive seasons, culminating with his full-season career-worst mark of .783 in 2012.
The signs show little hope that A-Rod will return to his past glory days. There is no question he will have one of the largest and worst contracts in baseball over the next half-decade.
During the remainder of their current contracts, Longoria is only making approximately $22 million more than Rodriguez, despite being signed for twice as many years and being 11 years younger. This is the most compelling evidence of how much of a bargain the Rays got.
Statistics via BaseballReference