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Tampa Bay Rays: The Longoria Era Ends in Tampa Bay

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ST. PETERSBURG, FL - JUNE 10: Former Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
ST. PETERSBURG, FL - JUNE 10: Former Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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After weeks of speculation that Evan Longoria could be among those traded by the Tampa Bay Rays became a reality on Wednesday when the face of the franchise was dealt to the San Francisco Giants.

I can remember when the New York Mets traded Tom Seaver to the Cincinnati Reds, when the Tampa Bay Lightning bought out Vincent Lecavalier’s contract and when they traded Martin St. Louis. Now, I can add to my list with the Tampa Bay Rays trading Evan Longoria – like those before, it is a crushing blow.

It is not every day when you can recall your team’s franchise player being traded, leaving for free agency having their contract bought out, but when you do, it sends shock waves through the air, you are sad and upset, and you feel like someone punched you in the gut, you have an empty feeling that cannot be described, but mostly you can’t believe that it actually happened.

I never expected that the Rays would ever trade “Longo.” I honestly thought he would be here for his entire career and so did Rays fans. However, this scenario is familiar, as the Rays have done so with others before him – Ben ZobristJames Shields, David Price and others. Longoria was the last of the “Devil Rays,” he was the longest tenured “Ray.”

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During the past couple of years, there have been rumors that Evan Longoria was on the trading block, that the Rays would consider trading Longoria for the right price. Nothing ever came to fruition on those rumors; however, that changed just before the start of the Winter Meetings last week when the Rays front office stated that they would consider just about “anything and everything” –  trading veteran assets, including Evan Longoria.

Fruition became a reality on Wednesday afternoon when the Rays traded Longoria, the face of the franchise to the San Francisco Giants for outfielder Denard Span, infielder Christian Arroyo, pitchers Matt Krook and Stephen Woods and an undisclosed amount of money.

In a conference call on Wednesday afternoon with the media, Longoria was peppered with numerous questions regarding the trade. But first he thanked all of the media for treating him fairly, honestly and supporting him. The full audio of the conference call can be heard here.

When asked for his reaction to the trade:

"“This is obviously a tough day for myself and my family, and for all of the friendships and relationships that I’ve made over the years,” said Longoria."

Baseball is a business, its entertainment at its best and like any entertainment business, including all professional sports every player knows that at any given time regardless of what they mean to their organization, what they have provided to the organization, the community, a trade at any time is inevitable.

This trade came down to two things – contract and money owned. In November 2012, the Rays and Longoria agreed to a second long-term deal, a six-year, $100 million contract that would begin in 2016. There was a mutual commitment when agreeing to this extension, Longoria wanted to remain a Ray for his entire career and the Rays wanted the same.

"“My goal from Day 1 was to be the first player that played their whole career here, to be the first guy that came into the organization and went out in the organization, and played all the years in between. There’s no better place for me.” – Evan Longoria"

"“It’s a very exciting day for us,” Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg said. “For Evan to have the confidence in us, and I know the confidence that we have in him, to re-up so to speak for the long haul. This is just an enormous commitment for us.” – Rays Owner Stuart Sternberg said in announcing the second long-term deal."

However, the second extension was more burdensome than I think initially thought. Having Longoria on the books for $13.5 in 2018, with $86 million remaining on the contract was too much for the Rays to handle – essentially, it handcuffed the Rays from financial flexibility.

How the second extension played out and virtually opened the door for this trade is as follows: Shortly after his promotion in 2008, the Rays gave him the first extension, which was a six-year, $17.5 million guaranteed deal, with three option years that totaled $44.5 million over nine years.

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When the second one came about, it added six more years for another $100 million – essentially the deal was now a 10-year, $136 million guaranteed contract that would escalate beginning in 2016 until 2022 with either a $5 million buyout or an option of $13 million in 2023, plus a $2 million bonus if traded.

Not only was the money handcuffing the Rays, but the fact that within the first week of the 2018 season, Longoria would gain his 10-and-5 rights – ten years in the league, five years with the same team which would enable him to veto any trade.

Daniel Kramer of mlb.com writes that Rays GM Erik Neander said Longoria’s no-trade rights and finances were some of the factors in making the trade.

"“Our goal is to be more competitive than we’ve been over the last four years here and for us to be able to do that we need a very strong core of young major-league players,” Neander said. “And one of the pieces we got back in this deal, Christian Arroyo, really fits that bill for us.”"

During the Winter Meetings when Longoria’s name was associated with a potential trade to St. Louis, Longoria said he was in “limbo” not knowing if he was or was not being traded.

However, while on the conference call, Longoria said that he was kept informed by the front office of a trade potential to a team with a chance to win, so in essence the trade did not come as a total surprise.

Longoria told the Rays that he did not want to go through an extended rebuild, or go through a few more years of potentially losing 100 games. Longoria praised the organization for their openness, for finding a trade partner that has a chance for the playoffs and a championship.

"“It was pretty apparent to me that the Rays wanted to go a different direction and rebuild.” “Since I’ve been here, I’ve basically become an adult. My hope is nothing but the best for the Rays organization and the Rays fanbase.”“I don’t blame them. I think they felt this was the best time for them to build for the ground up.”"

It is unfortunate that the Rays have the financial restraints that they have. Now, more than this trade could essentially hinder any attempt of building a new stadium. It is another risk, another gamble that the organization is willing to take, including the fallout from the fans. The fallout is likely to result in losing season ticket holders, losing potential new season ticket holders and more than anything getting fans into Tropicana Field.

"“Evan is our greatest Ray. For a decade, he’s been at the center of all of our successes, and it’s a very emotional parting for us all,” said principal owner Stuart Sternberg said in a press release. “I speak for our entire organization in wishing Evan and his wonderful family our absolute best.”"

Next: Tampa Bay Rays: Trade Evan Longoria to San Francisco

Regardless of who the key piece of this deal is in return, today the heart and soul, the face of the franchise is no longer. Wednesday’s trade undoubtedly ripped the hearts out of many, if not most of the loyal and true die-hard Tampa Bay Rays fans.

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