It was within a week of making his major league debut in 2008 that the Tampa Bay Rays locked up third baseman Evan Longoria top a six-year, $17.5 million deal. That contract has been the gold standard of team-friendly deals since the beginning and Longoria has averaged over 25 home runs and over 90 RBI per year in his first five years.
Today, with one year and three options seasons left on his original deal, the Rays and Longoria inked another six-year contract. This one will cost the franchise a bit more, however. Longoria’s new deal is worth $100 million and will keep him in Tampa through the 2022 season. The contract will incorporate the salaries that would have been included in the original team options, essentially automatically kicking in those options for the 2014-2016 seasons. This new contract will actually begin in the 2017 season and includes a team option for 2023.
The Rays have spent the bulk of the existence either trading away young stars or watching as they leave via free agency. In signing Longoria, it shows that Tampa has identified him as the cornerstone of their franchise and want to continue to build around his bat. It also shows that Longoria was willing to sacrifice some potential earning power to stay in Tampa.
Longoria’s new contract plus the remaining time on his old deal gives him at least 10 more seasons in Tampa and will pay him $138 million over that time. That’s less than $14 million per year. Imagine what Longoria would be worth on the open market in 2017 at age 32. My guess is that he would have gotten upwards of $20 million per year for at least four years.
There is some significant risk for the Rays given Longoria’s recent injury history, but even if legs wind up leaving him at the hot corner, Longoria can shift to first base or become a full-time DH.
The Rays don’t have a billion-dollar television contract coming down the pipe. They don’t have a new stadium and probably won’t be getting one anytime soon. That Longoria was willing to buy-in to the franchise, to commit to playing in front of crowds of dozens and in baseball’s worst stadium says an awful lot about a player that most had already assumed was a genuinely good guy.