It has been a long, emotionally exhausting day for fans of the Tampa Bay Rays, many of whom were devastated by the news Wednesday, of Evan Longoria’s trade to the San Francisco Giants. Longoria was the longest tenured Ray, and the last remaining rostered player from the 2008 ball club. Marc Topkin (Tampa Bay Times) was the first to break the news.
— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) December 20, 2017
The Rays, in return, received 22 year-old infielder Christian Arroyo, pitchers Stephen Woods and Matt Krook, and veteran outfielder Denard Span. In addition to taking on Span’s contract — $11-million in 2018 with a $4-million buyout on his 2019 option — Tampa Bay will ship between $10-million and $15-million to San Francisco to cover a portion of Longoria’s remaining $86-million as well as a deferred $2-million trade bonus.
— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) December 21, 2017
Put another way, the cost conscious Rays — whose owner, Stu Sternberg, tends to find a way to cry financial woe at any given opportunity — swapped Longoria for Span (and three prospects) for a net savings of -$7.5-million to -$12.5-million next season. Yes you read that correctly, a negative net amount of money.
To be sure, there is quite a bit of risk for San Francisco in acquiring Longoria. The Giants are taking on a moderately-priced player who struggled to a career-low .261 BA/.313 OBP/.424 SLG/.737 OPS line in 2017 — adding to a roster of costly, aging veterans. From a performance point of view, Longoria has seen better days and his best years are behind him, both at the plate and in the field.
With the exception of a modest jump in production in 2015, not to mention a significant spike in productivity in 2016, Longoria has watched his wOBA drop pretty consistently in three of his past five seasons.
He also played through a rather startling drop in exit velocity last season, which Jeff Sullivan (FanGraphs) wrote about:
In 2015, he averaged about 90 miles per hour. In 2016, he averaged about 91. In 2017, he averaged about 87. There are 293 players who knocked at least 100 batted balls in each of the past two seasons. Longoria showed the eighth-greatest exit-velocity drop. And in case you’re wondering what that could mean, the 25 biggest drops between 2015 and 2016 averaged about -2.4 miles per hour. Come 2017, there was absolutely zero recovery, again on average. The exit velocities remained lower.
Something could be awry here, then. Longoria is missing some pop. He is, at least, coming off a career-high contact rate, and there’s value in balls in play, but the Longoria of old might be gone forever. He might now be a contact-hitting adequate defensive third baseman with roughly average power.
Likewise, Longoria observed a downturn in the field starting around 2014, although he did post a +11 Defensive Runs Saved in his 2017 campaign.
His strong glove work in 2017 allowed him to accrue a 2.5 fWAR for the tenth consecutive +WAR season, yet when compared to Matt Duffy — who performed to a 4.9 fWAR at the hot corner in 2015 — it stands to reason that there should not be a reduction in quality at third in Longoria’s absence … that is, as long as Duffy is healthy.
Never thought there would be a day where you weren’t a Ray. We will do everything we can to continue the legacy that you created. I’ll never forget the things I learned from you.
It was such a pleasure to stand along side you on the diamond. You’ll be missed, everyday. pic.twitter.com/xGntiRLKBY
— Chris Archer (@ChrisArcher22) December 20, 2017
But not all things can and should be quantified. Longoria represented something more than just numbers, and that’s why this trade hurts so much. He also was a leader off the field, positively impacting the communities on both sides of the bridge, which our good friend Ray Roa (Creative Loafing) noted:
Proceeds from a recent signature blend of Kahwa coffee went toward Hurricane Irma relief efforts. He once partnered with Red Bull to rehab the historic Belmont Heights Little League Fields, which produced four Little League World Series teams and played incubator to major-leaguers like Gary Sheffield and Dwight Gooden. In 2011, he teamed up with Moffitt Cancer Center to raise thousands of dollars for research and continued working with the organization in the years that followed. He donated $100 to St. Pete’s PetPal Animal Shelter every time he hit home run — as did Bright House (now Spectrum), the Rays and Ducky’s. To date, his home runs have raised $61,300 for Pet Pal.
Moreover, his family helped opened a new wing in Great Explorations Children’s Museum in St. Petersburg, and his restaurant sponsored sections at the Trop when vendor troubles impacted the facility. Pair all that with his humility and love for everything this area has to offer. It wasn’t uncommon to see him around town at the Banyan Cafe or Mazzaro’s Italian Market, or playing with his children at Crescent Lake Park.
Beer and art nerds rejoiced… Longoria supported the local craft beer community, partnering with Doug Dozark and Cycle Brewing to brew the signature beer, Ducky’s Pils, for his restaurant Ducky’s Sports Lounge, which also features a mural from local artist Bask painted on its facade.
It’s a sad, yet true, realization that in order to be a Rays fan, you must also be cognizant that change is always around the corner. Longoria acknowledged as much Wednesday afternoon, saying:
I have mentioned in the past that it would be tough for me to sit around and (theoretically) lose 100 games, and when you go through a rebuild there will be tough times, and I didn’t know if I was ready to go through that so that we had a chance to compete. I’ve never had meetings like this before. They were pretty pointed. It was much more real this offseason. I’ve always wished that maybe they would decide to commit to adding to the roster and trying to contend year in and year out. I understand that’s not the way the Rays have done it historically. There’s a part of me that is let down, but it’s been the way that its been as long as I’ve been here. So it’s not too much of a surprise.
We’ve been through this countless times, yet it doesn’t get any easier. This time feels different though. Longoria committed himself to retiring as a Ray, and he wanted to stay.
I think I’ve been pretty upfront about wanting to be in Tampa (Bay) for my whole career, but I realize that my window is getting smaller to win a championship, Longoria said. If they decide to rebuild completely and give everyone up, then I suppose my family and I will adjust.
Longo signed a pair of team-friendly contracts, and rewarded the team, and fan base, with name recognition that made the Rays more than a laughing stock within the AL East. Now, however, the Rays again look like a 4A breeding ground from which to pillage.
Sorry to break it to you Danny, but the #Rays only committed the equivalent of 30-years worth of Wilson Ramos’ salary to a stadium project. Trying to squeeze 1 oz. of shit from an owner who gives 0 fucks is pointless. Fuck Stu Sternberg, and his fake ass “woe is me” posturing.
— X-Rays Spex (@XRaysSpex) December 20, 2017
He was our Chipper Jones, our Derek Jeter, our Adrián Beltré. He was everything every Rays fan could hope for in a franchise player, but knew we could never have. We were spoiled for a decade, but now we know better than to hedge our bets on an ownership that frankly couldn’t care less for the fans. Perhaps it’s wiser to purchase nameless and numberless shirseys and jerseys from here on out.
Dare I say a tacit, yet deafening, message has been sent to any would be player who is mulling over the decision to sign a long-term contract with the Rays: don’t bother. After all, the team will probably trade you regardless of your commitment. I would imagine the same to be true for Kevin Kiermaier and Chris Archer, both of whom are locked up in team friendly contracts. Perhaps Jake Odorizzi and Alex Cobb had it right all along?
Sadly this decision could be a precursor to further action. The front office has been in talks on closer Alex Colome all winter, and many anticipate the trade of a starter, with Odorizzi representing the most realistic possibility. But all of that is just consternation at the moment.
Writing 1,200+ words on the subject hasn’t been easy, and I haven’t even scratched the surface on my personal thoughts or feelings on Longoria, or the package the Rays received in return. That will come once I’ve had a chance to completely digest everything. But for the moment irrational/emotional me has to settle a debate between rational me and analytical me. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, I now know your internal conflict.