With this being known around the country as “Cyber Monday,” Tampa Bay did Evan Longoria right, and made it “Green Monday” for their third baseman. Picking up all the options for his current contract, they added six years and $100 million to his deal. That means that he could be with the club until 2022, the year he turns thirty-seven. Longoria did not request a no-trade clause.
While there are no guarantees in sports, the deal comes off as a “plus” for both sides. The Rays appreciate what the hard-hitting Gold Glover brings to the team, and he loves being a part of the organization and community. While players’ salaries will more than likely continue to escalate over the years, Longoria is a great deal for the financially-strapped Rays, barring an injury.
How important is Longoria to the club? It can be argued that had he been healthy this past season, the club could have vied for a World Series title. Tampa Bay finished three games behind Baltimore and Texas in the wild card race this season, and that was with Longoria playing in only seventy-four games. Injuries are certainly a part of any season, but we’re talking about a player’s importance to an organization here, and it’s obvious: Tampa Bay wins when Longoria plays. This past season? The Rays were 47-27 with big number 3 in the lineup. That’s a percentage of .635, which translates to 103 wins over a full season.
As a high school student, I don’t know how in the world I ever passed chemistry. Sister Marlene may have simply felt sorry for me, closed her eyes, and written “C” on my report card. Or maybe she didn’t want to see me back in her class, and gave me a good enough grade to be sure I wouldn’t be back in the hope of improving my mark. But I fully understand the term “chemistry” when it comes to baseball, and Longoria improves the chemistry of the Tampa Bay Rays.
Part of that chemistry shows up whenever Joe Maddon puts the names on the lineup card. It’s easier to mix and match a lineup when you have someone to build around. But there’s also the chemistry of the dugout and locker room. It was obvious whenever you would spot Longoria in the dugout during his injury that he wanted to be on the field. But just as obvious was his desire for the team to do well. He was upbeat¸ and he was a leader.
With the winter meetings and wheeling and dealing just around the corner, it’s nice to know Longoria will be there to anchor the Rays. And rather than robbing the bank, he took a salary that will allow them to go out and get other players to complement him over the years. Evan Longoria and the Rays are together in this thing for the long haul. And winning is a high priority for this low-budget, small-market team. As a fan of the Rays, it feels like my birthday, or maybe even Christmas, has come early. And the Tampa Bay Rays and community will be better for having Evan Longoria around.