Ask Gary: Will the Rays hold onto Longoria?

by Gary Shelton on September 30, 2017 · 4 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

Will Longoria still be a fixture next season?/CARMEN MANDATO

Will Longoria still be a fixture next season?/CARMEN MANDATO

(Each week, the readers take over GarySheltonsports.com and play Ask Gary. They send in a question, or a couple, on Thursday night or Friday morning and we all talk about the world of sports.  Think of it as a radio show where you don't have to be on hold. Join us and ask a question, make a comment or be funny. Send the questions to GarySheltonsports@gmail.com).

Saturday, 4 a.m.

The Rays are approaching an off- season that is likely to bring even more turnover than normal to the roster. Alex Cobb, Tommy Hunter, Steve Cishek, Lucas Duda, Logan Morrison, and Tommy Hunter are all free agents who will be getting big contracts elsewhere. Those guys will be gone. The big question is

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who else may be going in the Rays annual shuffling of big contracts? Souza, Hechavarria and Colome are in line for big raises. Odorizzi, Archer, KK and Ramos all have big contracts by Rays standards already. And of course the biggest contract of them all is Evan Longoria’s who, in addition, has a no-trade clause that kicks in next April for being with the club 10 years. Even after losing the free agents we shouldn’t expect the penny-pinching Rays to pay everyone and also spend more money to add needed impact players to make the team competitive.

Do you think this will be the year the Rays decide they can no longer afford the face of the franchise and trade Evan Longoria? I’m not advocating for trading Longoria but we know that even though there is no salary cap in baseball, Rays management puts severe payroll limitations on themselves. Losing his salary would theoretically free up payroll that would allow the team to keep their other core players and add to the roster. Longo is getting to that age when production drops off and he will need more rest. With the no-trade clause coming the Rays may feel this is the best strategic time to dump his salary in favor of younger, cheaper talent. Would the Rays be willing to roll the dice that Matt Duffy can be the guy at third or is he a lost cause? So many questions. What does your crystal ball say?

Larry Beller

Lots for me to process there, Larry. History tells us that the Rays pinch pennies, and history tells us they don't overpay many people. I agree with your premise; this team could be in for a major face-lift.

To be honest, I thought last year was the year they would let teams kick the tires on Longoria. He was coming off an excellent year, and a lot of teams would love to have his presence in the clubhouse. But the Rays didn't have meaningful dialogue about him. Obviously, they don't want to trade him.

Now, let's discuss this: What do you get for Longoria at 31? During his all-star years, you could have fetched a lot. I'm not sure you do anymore. You certainly aren't going to get anyone any better.

My own thoughts is that you don't want to trade the captain while yoiu're trying to secure financing for a stadium. I think it would just be too unpopular. Again, I wouldn't trade him just to get rid of his contract, because it's bad business, and everyone would see through such a trade. So you'd have to get something in return for him.

In a way, I think that the other departures might help hang onto Longo. If you're going to lose Morrison (the Rays only had him this year because he was a bargain) and Duda, well, you have to keep someone.

I don't think the Rays can afford to let Duffy be part of any answer to any position. The first ability, remember, is durability.

Likewise, rest isn't a problem with Longo. He plays almost every day. Still, I know what you're saying. We live in a society where almost no one spends their careers with one team, particularly a cheap team when he's not a cheap player. But if I had to guess, I'd say it's 60-40 that Longo is still here.

Does Evan Longoria play his complete MLB career with the Rays?

Scott Myers

Unless they play in a big market, like Derek Jeter, almost no one does anyway. Longo likes to play baseball, and I can envision the day when someone wants to pay him more salary than the Rays.

But, like Larry asked above you, what are the odds that happens now?

For most of Longoria's career, he's been the best player on the Rays. I'm not sure that's true anymore. Logan Morrison had a lot more home runs this year. Corey Dickerson had more hits. Adeiny Hechavarria and Kevin Kiermaier were better in the field. But Longoria remains a pro, and he can still drive home runs.

Ah, but is Longo as valuable to the Rays as he used to be? Probably not. I could see him being moved to, say, the Dodgers. Maybe the Angels, which is near his home. But as I mentioned earlier, Longoria is a player that the fans trust, and in the middle of trying to get a new stadium built, losing him wouldn't be popular.

Remember, you are unlikelyto get a great player for Longoria. His trade, probably, would be mainly to move his contract. That's not a good way to build faith among the fans is it?

I said 60-40, he stays, in answering Larry's question. It's been sheer minutes later, and I haven't changed my mind.

You are the coach of a football team.   It is a tie game, time for one last series against a top 5 defense.   Who do you want on your team:                   

Winston or Mariota? Doug Martin or Dalvin Cook? Mike Evans or Odell Beckham Jr.?
Interesting series of questions, Jim. I'm going to assume, for the sake of discussion, that things like field position, the offensive lines and the fullback (for blocking) are all the same. Right?
At quarterback, I'm going to take Winston, but it's closer than a lot of people in Tampa think. Still, Winston has won more games (16-13) and has more touchdown passes (52-48). He also has six game-winning drives compared to four for Mariota. Granted, Mariota is a nice player, and you could debate whether the Titans have done better at building around him. But one guy, one drive? Of the two, I'll take Winston.
At running back, it really isn't a fair comparison. Cook has played three NFL games in his lifetime. Martin, meanwhile, is an enigma. I've written about it a lot. He has two seasons with more than 1,400 yards, and three with less than 500. There are certainly a lot of backs (Zeke Elliott, Todd Gurley) that I'd take over either of them. Seeing as how Martin is still suspended, I will take Cook. For now.
At receiver, I have to start this by saying how much I like Evans. But I did a statistical comparison, and Beckham has beaten him across the board. He's faster, and he makes circus catches. Yeah, it's true. Beckham has played on better teams. Still, I'll go with Beckham.
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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Larry Beller September 30, 2017 at 6:26 pm

Just to add a footnote to your story the Tigers traded Harvey Kuenn, a good player who hit for average for Rocky Colavito who was a power hitter. The Tigers got the best of that deal but that kid must have been very unhappy. But they never traded Al Kaline who went to the Hall of Fame and was my boyhood hero.

It’s just crazy how the Rays have to reinvent themselves every year. There always seems to be a crop of outgoing stars who now make too much money, players who didn’t work out and free agents who were brought in for just the short term. I still can’t get used to it and I even like the Rays.

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Gary Shelton September 30, 2017 at 7:09 pm

It’s tough. I grew up with the Braves when they were bad. But they had Aaron and Rico Carty and Felix Milan, guys you could follow for years. Nothing like it in baseball. I know players have made great gains, but something has been lost, too.

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Larry Beller September 30, 2017 at 7:56 am

It was rumored last year that the Dodgers were interested in Longoria but they ended up resigning their own third baseman. On most teams I don’t think there would be any discussion about trading the most popular player who is still very productive. The Rays are not like most teams. Sternberg mentioned again in the paper this week that payroll will go down. He feels like the money they spent on acquiring players mid-season this year must be recouped by having a corresponding reduction of next year’s payroll.What owner in all of sports talks like that? I’m not sure the Rays could sink much lower in popularity so anything is possible with this team. It’s not just a question of what they could get in return for Longoria but you also need to factor in what other players could they keep because they don’t have to pay his salary. It could come down to do they keep Longoria or 2 or 3 other productive players like Hechavarria and Colome. In order to meet their own internal salary cap moves will need to be made. With the Rays, eventually everybody goes. Sad isn’t it?

Reply

Gary Shelton September 30, 2017 at 10:53 am

Yes. It’s the worst part of following the Rays (or As, or Padres or Marlins or a few other clubs.

A story. When I was in high school, I had a friend who had just moved to town from Michigan. As a kid, he had loved Harvey Kuenn above all other ballplayers. I followed the National League and had barely heard of Harvey Kuenn. But This guy had dressedup in a Tigers uniform and walked around saying “Me Harvey Kuenn.” His parents still kidded him about it.

My point is there are athletes who are local treasures, athletes that kids emulate as they grow. Longo has been like that. If you were five years old in 2008, the World Series year, then you’re 14 now. If you were 14 then, you’re 23. And he’s become part of you.

For that, I hate that teams (it’s not just the Rays who pinch pennies; we just feel it worse) have to say farewell to popular players. Whether it’s this year or soon, we’ll face that with Longo. The odds against him being a Ray forever are too great.

I would hope that Hechavarria and Colome don’t depend on Longo, but they might. Sure as shooting, someone in on the border. That’s the cost of mostly empty stadiums. The true fans suffer every night because of it. I’ve said it a hundred times. Being a Rays’ fan requires one to keep an eye on the payroll and, frankly, that’s not why we watch. Is it?

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