The Tampa Bay Rays have finally started to settle down. After years of being the nothing franchise with the ugly uniforms, followed by a few years of being the attractive stock in a sea of sharks (which is where they still are), the Rays appear to have moved into adulthood.
On Monday, Tampa signed stud third baseman Evan Longoria to a 10-year contract worth a guaranteed $100 million. So, he’ll be okay. The 27-year-old (yeah, they get old fast in baseball) was already clipping along with $36.6 million coming to him the next four seasons.
“Evan has all of the attributes we seek in a player,” said Rays VP Andrew Friedman. “His determination and work ethic inspire others around him. He is devoted to his craft and strives to improve himself every year, and he defines success in terms of team performance and achievement. It’s exciting to know that Evan will be manning third base for the Rays for many years to come.”
Longoria was drafted by the Rays in 2006, and signed to his first contract after six games. He won the AL’s Rookie of the Year in 2008. Last year, he limped his way to 74 games. With him in their lineup, Tampa went 47-27. Without him? 41-44, which is a near direct debit account of why they missed the playoffs.
It appears to be the right time for this. You know, for maturity.
The Yankees look like they’re downslope all the way, until they inevitably sign four superstars (or four mediocre players and claim they’re superstars) and climb back into the saddle. The Red Sox have at least two more years of a Shakespearean tragedy left.
The Orioles are good and the Jays are making moves.
But, are the Rays as intimidated by them as they are by Boston or New York?
(Not that the Rays are intimidated by anyone. We remember this, like anybody.)
With the AL East kind of wide open for the first time since Nixon took office, this is the time for Tampa to do two things necessary for any successful franchise: 1) Sign new talent, and 2) Hold on to what it has.
Evan Longoria is that kind of guy, and he’ll need to be that guy for 10 more years.
*NOTE: Props go to Tampa for being the first squad to sign a long-term contract that isn’t actually that ridiculous. Regardless of money, the Angels will be paying Albert Pujols until he’s coaching Little League in the Dominican and Detroit is stuck with Prince Fielder’s belt size for a long, long time.
At least the Rays went with a guy who’s worth the risk, and will be a not-so-bad 37 by the time it’s all done.