The Florida baseball team that has a sound financial plan -- the Tampa Bay Rays -- made a major investment on Monday.
Evan Longoria took what appears on the surface to be a long-term deal at under market value in order to stay with the Rays for a majority of his career.
The Rays locked up their 27-year-old star third baseman to a 10-year contract that piles onto some option seasons. With a 2023 option factored in, Longoria could receive $144.6 million in the next 11 seasons. His salaries go up incrementally per year, from $7.5 million in 2014 all the way to $19.5 million for 2022. Who knows what baseball salaries will look like a decade from now? If Longoria stays healthy and on his career trajectory, it could actually be a bargain move for the Rays.
If he gets injured, it's not. The long-term and guaranteed nature of the deal -- there's a no-trade clause that kicks in for the 2017 season -- is the big risk for the small-market Rays. With a small ballpark -- the Rays were last in the majors in attendance despite a competitive team -- and miniscule TV revenue into the foreseeable future, there's no major windfall on the horizon. As Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports pointed out Monday, "one bad move could funnel them straight into irrelevancy."
Signing Carl Crawford to such a deal two years ago likely would have been that bad move. He was the face of the franchise before Longoria, left for free agent riches, but got hurt and didn't produce in Boston. He was dumped to the Los Angeles Dodgers last season. Longoria didn't want to become a mercenary, and the Rays believe in his future.
"I always wanted to be kind of a benchmark player ... the guy that you could think about or associate with the organization," Longoria said to the Associated Press. "My goal from Day 1 was to be the first player that played their whole career here, to be the first guy that came into the organization and went out in the organization, and played all the years in between. There's no better place for me."