The Tampa Bay Rays have made a splash in their own waters by extending the contract of Evan Longoria. Both sides agreed on a six-year extension through 2022. The signing speaks volumes to both the Tampa Bay organization and Longoria, who has been groomed and molded into a perennial MVP candidate by the Rays, when healthy.
There is absolutely no doubt that Longoria is a force at the plate, even when everyone in the stadium knows he is injured. In 74 games and 273 at-bats the Rays third baseman hit 17 big-flies and drove in 55 runs.
For the second consecutive season Longo was hobbled by hamstring issues, in 2011 he played in 133 games and hit 31 homers and drove in one run short of 100.
Both sides are taking a huge risk with this deal. The first thought that comes to mind after this signing has soaked in is this: what will the Rays do with Cy Young winner David Price? The Rays two best players on the field are also friends off the field, and more importantly they are fan favorites. The Longoria deal is a message to the fans and seems to indicate that Longoria wants to man the Tampa Bay Rays hot corner for his entire career. If the Rays want to gain legitimacy and, more importantly, fans in the seats then extending their own players shows that the front office cares.
An issue with the deal is that the contract has set a precedent for other players on the team. The Rays will most likely be unable to sign BJ Upton, like Carl Crawford, Rafael Soriano and Joaquin Benoit before him the Rays wont be able to afford what other teams will offer. But now that Longoria has been extended what is next for the other key members of the current roster.
David Price has now become one of the more intriguing story lines of the offseason. The inevitable non-sensical banter about how Price has now become more valuable than his contract is worth will be the talk of the baseball world in the coming months. The big market teams will undoubtedly offer Price money that the Rays can’t even fathom. The Rays could make a major statement to the rest of the league by extending Price, but a package of prospects is only a phone call away.
The Longoria extension is important for the short term but only time will tell if it was the best move for the future, something the Rays and their fans have come to get used to.