The Wrong Way Rays

This week the Tampa Bay Rays traded long time face of the franchise, Evan Longoria to the San Francisco Giants.  Longoria has had a very nice (although often below the national radar) career with the Rays.  Although it is an understandable move from a Tampa Bay franchise which is always selling off “proven” (read as expensive) players for high upside youth (read as inexpensive and under cost control for significant lengths of time), trading Longoria is painful for anyone who is a Rays fan or at least enjoys the idea of a homegrown star player remaining with his original team.

longoria

Longoria will be entering his age 32 season.  He is signed through his age 37 season at the following salary:

2018 – 13.5 million

2019 – 14.5 million

2020 – 15.0 million

2021 – 18.5 million

2022 – 19.5 million

2023 – team option for 13.0 million or a 5.0 million buyout.

Although Longoria’s best seasons are likely behind him, he is a consistent player who has put up solid numbers while playing every day.  Here is a brief look at his last few seasons with the Rays:

Year———-Games———-OPS+———-WAR

2014                 162                 107                3.3

2015                 160                 112                3.2

2016                 160                 127                3.9

2017                 156                 100                3.6

 

It is estimated that in 2017 each win a player is worth will cost a team between 8 and 9 million dollars in free agency.  Thus, on the open market, Longoria could be projected to be a 24 to 27 million dollar per year player based on being a three win player.  While his salary will increase over the course of the coming years, as long as Longoria is able to maintain around a 3.0 WAR performance, the contract is an excellent value for the Giants (especially considering the continually rising cost of free agents/buying ‘a win’ on the free agent market).  Furthermore, the upgrade of Longoria manning the hot corner when compared to the Giants’ in house options makes this trade an even stronger move for San Francisco.

Conversely, I fail to see the logic in this trade for Tampa Bay.  As stated earlier, the Rays organization consistently move higher priced established players for younger, cheaper, and more controllable players.  This is a franchise always looking to break a dollar bill into four quarters or in an even better scenario coming out ahead in the long run if one of the players they get in return happens to truly breakout.  However, as recent moves the team has made demonstrate, getting even four quarters back for a dollar is hard to pull off and getting greater value than the dollar is extremely difficult.

What’s most damaging to Tampa isn’t the decline in production that they will likely experience in losing Longoria’s bat and glove in 2018 and beyond.  It’s the continued failure to cultivate a legacy.  There is no history for this team.  Who do you think of when you envision the Rays?  Rocco Baldelli, Aubrey Huff, or Carlos Pena?  An aging Fred McGriff or Wade Boggs playing out their end days?  Keeping Longoria should have been a priority.  He is productive, signed to a fair contract, and could have been the star that would allow the franchise to finally have a player identified as completely their own.

There’s no doubt that as an organization Tampa is in a tough position.  They are stuck in a horrible stadium deal, they have a limited fan base, and the budget they are afforded is strikingly low especially when they are forced to compete in the ultra competitive and deep pocketed A.L. East.  They have to be extremely careful when deciding which players to move and when the optimal time to move a player is.  It’s unfortunate that the team has been put in a position where they are often forced to move their stars before they become too pricy to keep.  With Longoria, the team locked him up to a team friendly long-term contact.  This was the perfect opportunity for the organization to finally have the chance to keep the fan favorite from beginning to end of the player’s career.  They blew it.

Salary and stats from baseball-reference.com

 

Follow me on twitter: @doctordaver

 

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