With the Rays announcing Evan Longoria’s contract extension Monday, it leaves us wondering what is in store for the franchise during their next ten years with Longoria on the roster. While the third baseman’s $100 million contract that extends through at least 2022 ensures that the Rays can have their best hitter in the lineup for the next decade, could this be the start of a long line of Rays players who follow in Longoria’s footsteps and attempt to spend their entire careers in Tampa Bay?
Veteran pitcher James Shields is another player interested in staying with the Rays through his entire career. As rumors swirled in July of 2012 that Shields might be traded, he told Tampa Bay Times reporter Mark Topkin, “This is where I’ve been my whole career. They’ve treated me pretty good … I definitely would love to stay here the rest of my career.”
Shields was drafted by the Devil Rays in 2000 and made his Major League debut in 2006. In October, the Rays picked up Shields’ club option for the 2013 season for $10.25 million. Shields, who turns 31 in December, has been in the middle of trade rumors plenty of times around previous seasons’ trade deadlines and even in the offseason. In October, the Dodgers named Shields as their “#1 target” for adding another pitcher to their staff, but clearly the Rays have yet to act on the Dodgers’ interest. Shields’ leadership to a young pitching staff is invaluable to the Rays, and his performances in the 2011 and 2012 seasons give the organization plenty of reasons to want to keep him aboard. Shields pitched 476.3 innings over the past two seasons with a total of 448 strikeouts during those two years.
However, the Rays are known for having one of the smallest payrolls in all of baseball, making it hard for them to sign long-term, lucrative deals with all of their top players. Left-handed pitcher David Price won the AL Cy Young Award earlier this month, having a 2.56 ERA in 2012, with 205 strikeouts in 211 innings pitched. But, the Rays may not be able to afford to keep Price before he enters free agency in 2016. Price is eligible for arbitration four times during the course of his contract, and the first time was in 2012 when he and the Rays agreed to $4.35 million for the 2012 season. Jeremy Hellickson, another starting pitcher for the Rays, is also eligible for arbitration next year. If the Rays find that they cannot afford to keep their players due to arbitration, then they certainly will not be able to sign many players to lifetime deals like Longoria.
As the Rays continue to look for more players who can contribute to the team’s success, it is nice to know that Longoria is putting his team first like he always does.
“I told them from the beginning that I didn’t want to be the one sucking up all the payroll so we can’t afford anybody else, because it’s not giving us the best chance to win,” Longoria told MLB.com.
No matter what the future has in store for other Rays players who may be interested in duplicating Longoria’s lifetime deal, at least the Rays can count on Longoria’s equally solid offensive and defensive skills for another ten years.