Evan Longoria stands in the batters box during his turn at bat in the game against the Baltimore Orioles. (Photo by Joseph Garnett Jr./Getty Images)

All is quiet on the western front — at least as it relates to the Tampa Bay Rays in the Hot-Stove period — although that could change at the drop of the hat, thanks to Stu Sternberg’s rather amorphous edict to cut payroll to an unspecified level.

The team’s principal owner apparently is not budging on the unknown parameters of his initial proclamation, despite a reported windfall that all 30 MLB owners are expected to receive, thanks to the $1.58-billion sale of BAMTech to Disney.

The terms of the deal stipulate that each owner will receive a cool $50-million, and while the Rays’ benevolent owner could use that money toward fielding a competitive team in 2018, as they say, don’t count on it.

On the bright side, the Rays have already shed +$20-million in payroll, thanks to players not returning next season. Yet they still intend to trade players to offset the costs of arbitration and guaranteed deals. The team sits in a similar place payroll wise as they did at the start of the 2017 season, yet they still need to fill other spots/roles.

…And so it goes, with trade rumors swirling around Evan Longoria — I’ll touch on him in a moment — Jake Odorizzi, Alex Colome, and Chris Archer.

According to Mike Berardino (Pioneer Press) teams are not having an easy time prying prying Odorizzi out of Tampa Bay.

The Rays have let potential trade partners know they’ll have to “extend” for a shot at Odorizzi.

Colome has received a sizable amount of attention on the trade market, especially from St. Louis — whom the Rays are engaged with on multiple trade scenarios — however, a deal hasn’t yet been completed. That may indicate that some teams with interest still want to explore other options.

Tampa Bay probably would not have any trouble finding a taker for Archer thanks to his compelling peripherals, age, and team-friendly contract…but that only is if he is truly made available.

As for Longoria, the biggest cheerleader for a deal involving the face of the franchise appears to be Marc Topkin, the only beat writer in the area (besides Bill Chastain of MLB.com and Neil Solondz) for the team. Granted where there’s smoke there’s fire, although Topkin’s argument for a trade — the front office wants to deal Longoria before his 10-and-5 rights kick in this spring — has been picked up by other sports writers or outlets, which further the whispers to their respective readers. That is to say MLB Trade Rumors, among others, has based their reporting on Topkin’s word, as opposed to any credible research of their own. For his part Topkin is a credible writer, has acknowledged that Longoria could waive his 10-and-5 rights if a trade was to happen after they kick in, and until recently posed all discussions surrounding the Rays’ third-basemen in hypothetical terms.

One shouldn’t simply discount Topkin, nor should they ignore the fact that Longoria’s name probably has come up in trade discussions. But to paraphrase Solondz, To me this year is no different from any other in terms of way the way the Rays operate. If there are more rumors about a player it may mean there’s more interest in that individual.

The fact remains that the Rays have not undergone a complete roster overhaul in Sternberg’s 10+ years of ownership, so why would they start now by dealing the face of the franchise now?

As Danny Russell (DRaysBay) put it:

The only philosophically consistent aspect of a Longoria trade rumor is that the Rays front office has never said a player is untouchable. Another team is always free to offer a trade suggestion, just as the Rays are always free to laugh. To be sure, if they trade Longoria this off-season it would fundamentally change everything we know about this franchise. But nothing’s impossible.

Evan Longoria is a franchise third baseman with stellar defense on a team friendly contract. If he remains with the Rays his number will be retired in a beautiful new stadium in Ybor City. He’s not ready to let that moment slip away, and neither is the front office.

While I certainly don’t buy the whole “beautiful new stadium in Ybor City” sentiment, the rest holds up.

I don’t doubt that Topkin knows more than the rest of us when speaking in terms in the engagement of trade discussions between the Rays with other teams, which likely includes Longoria. Then again, perhaps there’s something to be said for the calm steady bleat of Chastain and Solondz.

Dare I say that Topkin might realize Longoria’s name is tantamount to clickbait, and his speculation attracts the eyes of others?


— Not to sully the name of Evan Longoria, or dampen the hopes of those who are pushing for a trade of the Rays third baseman, but as Mark Simon (ESPN) tweeted, Longoria’s peripherals have been on the slide the last few seasons. That’s not to say he isn’t a valuable player. However, the Rays likely would not receive a ransom’s loot for Longoria, if they indeed are actively shopping the face of the franchise.

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