One of the most shocking moves of the offseason for me occurred while I was getting a haircut. I was sitting in a chair watching MLB Network while my mom took a razor to my luscious locks when I saw on the breaking news bottomline something different than the Zach Britton injury that had been steadily moving across all morning:
Rays Trade Evan Longoria to the Giants
This was one of, if not the, last moves I expected to see when I was getting my haircut. Longoria is the face of the Tampa Bay Rays, and while it’s a very short existence for the franchise, he’s still the first guy you think of when you think about the Rays. Like what Ted Williams was to the Red Sox, or what Mike Schmidt was to the Phillies, Evan Longoria was to the Rays. Plus, there weren’t any rumors that this was a possibility. Longoria was under contract for another 5 years, so trying to get the most out of him before he hit free agency wasn’t really an excuse. But upon learning why he was being traded, things made a lot more sense.
Evan Longoria somehow was really enjoying his time in Tampa, which is something that is rare to come by. Not a knock against the city, I’ve been a few times and never had a bad experience. It’s just the conditions surrounding the organization that make things surprising that he was so content there. First of all, that stadium sucks. Tropicana Field is perhaps the biggest dump of a stadium I’ve ever seen, certainly the worst I’ve caught a game in. Plus, the Rays just don’t draw a crowd. Whether that’s because of the bad stadium or whatever other reason, people just don’t show up for Rays games. It’s pretty apparent when you see boatloads of empty seats in the crowd or when the opposing team’s chants drown out anything Rays fans do. It’s a team that’s going to struggle to compete on a year-to-year basis just because of the fact they can’t even draw fans when they’re competing for a World Series, so their payroll is always going to be at or near the bottom of the league so they’re rarely players in free agency. Yet for whatever reason, Longoria was content there. His being content was actually a driving force behind why this trade occurred.
Evan Longoria was set to gain 10-5 rights in April 2018. What are 10-5 rights, you ask? They only apply to players who have been in the Major Leagues for 10 years and have been with their current team for at least the last 5, hence the 10-5 name. Once you reach that mark, you can veto any trade you like. It’s a built-in trade clause from the most recent CBA, which rewards veterans for their loyalty to a team. Longoria was set to hit his 10th year in the Majors when opening day 2018 came around. If that were to happen, given his contentment with his situation, the Rays would never be able to trade him if they ever wanted to rebuild. He would have been in a similar situation to Giancarlo Stanton, who could essentially pick his destination, regardless of what the returning package might have been. So essentially, it was now or never for Tampa. Simply put, Longoria’s loyalty to the Rays was what got him traded.
Coming to Tampa Bay in the trade from the Giants is top prospect Christian Arroyo, who will likely replace Longoria at third base, veteran outfielder Denard Span, and pitching prospects Matt Krook and Stephen Woods. I know nothing about Krook or Woods except their barely within the Giants’ top 30 prospects. This was more about acquiring Arroyo than anything. Plus the Rays also sent some cash to San Francisco so that this trade doesn’t put them over the luxury tax. Arroyo was rushed to the Majors in 2017, failing to reach the Mendoza Line in limited action before returning to the Minors. Span had an ugly season, particularly in the field, as his -27 DRS was worst in the Majors at any position, next worst being Dexter Fowler at -18, a 33% dropoff between worst and second worst. I don’t know the specific details of Span’s contract, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he ended up being one of those players that gets waived by the team that just acquired him to gain some sort of compensation, much like the Braves did by releasing Adrian Gonzalez immediately after acquiring him in the Matt Kemp trade with the Dodgers. Span is set to make $11 million in 2018 and $12 million in 2019 before becoming a free agent in 2020, so I’ve got to imagine the Rays would rather not pay that kind of money to a guy who hasn’t had a league-average WAR since 2014 (2.0), especially when they’re an organization that’s strapped for cash as it is. Quite frankly I’d be surprised if Span suited up in a Rays uniform in 2018.
As for the Giants, I had figured they’d be the favorites for Mike Moustakas’ services, as I noted in my free agent rankings, however the acquisition of Longoria effectively takes them out of the running. They’re trying to improve on what was potentially a fluky 2017 season where they tied with the Tigers for the worst record in the Majors and, thanks to a poorly-timed Pablo Sandoval walkoff home run in game 162, won’t even have the #1 pick in the draft to show for it, as that home run gave the Tigers the tie-breaker. So here is what a potential Giants lineup looks like with Longoria.
1. Gorkys Hernandez-CF
2. Joe Panik-2B
3. Buster Posey-C
4. Evan Longoria-3B
5. Brandon Belt-1B
6. Brandon Crawford-SS
7. Hunter Pence-RF
8. Mac Williamson-LF
9. Pitcher’s Spot
I can’t imagine the Giants are done making moves because that outfield is AWFUL. Two guys who would likely be in the minor leagues in any other organization and a past-his-prime Hunter Pence. They’ll need to make other moves if they hope to have a successful 2018 season and I think one guy they’ll set their sights on is Lorenzo Cain, formerly of the Kansas City Royals. Experts are projecting that Cain is going to command somewhere in the $80 million range for the life of his contract, which I would guess would be for five years, giving an average annual salary of $16 million, which should be within San Francisco’s budget. They may need to also look for a veteran that could come on the cheap, maybe somebody like Chris Young. But if the Giants go into 2018 with this lineup, I can’t envision them escaping the basement of the NL West.
As for the Rays, it looks like they’re all in on another rebuild because after the trade, their lineup looks like this:
1. Corey Dickerson-DH
2. Kevin Kiermaier-CF
3. Steven Souza-RF
4. Brad Miller-1B
5. Wilson Ramos-C
6. Mallex Smith-LF
7. Ryan Schimpf/Christian Arroyo-3B
8. Adeiny Hechavarria-SS
9. Daniel Robertson-2B
This has the look of a team that doesn’t anticipate to compete in 2018 and it wouldn’t shock me at all to find them in last place in the very competitive AL East.
That’s it for today’s blog. Let me know what you thought of the Longoria trade in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.