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Tampa Bay Rays hot topics: Evan Longoria on the move?

By Marc Topkin
Evan Longoria won Gold Gloves in 2009-10 for the Rays. [WILL VRAGOVIC / TAMPA BAY TIMES]

 We don't know what moves the Rays will make this off-season, just that there will be some big ones as they look to cut payroll and decide whether to try to remain competitive or go for a rebuild. With the annual winter meetings next week at Disney, we are looking today at some of their hottest topics:

Trading 3B Evan Longoria would be the biggest headline the Rays could make this winter, short of a new stadium deal — in Tampa, St. Petersburg or (even bigger) somewhere else.

Longoria has been a face of their franchise and a cornerstone since arriving as a rookie in the 2008 season and starring for 10 seasons.

He is considered a team leader on and off the field, a consummate professional and a good representative in the community with a beautiful family. He has said repeatedly, including at the end of this past season, that he has no interest in going anywhere else and likes the idea of spending his whole career with one team. And he has shown that commitment is more than just talk with his actions, twice signing long-term deals that were considered at the time below market value and team friendly.

So why would the Rays trade him?

* Because, with his 2023 option, they still owe him $94-million, starting with a $13.5-million salary this season that dropping would cover a big chunk of their planned cut.

* Because, even though he won his third Gold Glove last season, he is 32 and coming off what he considers a very disappointing offensive season, hitting .261 with 20 homers, 86 RBIs and a .737 OPS and will have to prove he is not trending down.

* Because about 10 days into the 2018 season, he gets the benefit of no-trade protection by having spent 10 years in the majors and at least five with the same team, which could – though not necessarily significantly – limit the Rays options in the future.

* Because if they opt for a rebuild that some in the industry think makes sense they can frame trading Longoria as doing him a favor, allowing him the chance to be on a contender again, having missed the playoffs four straight years after playing into October four times in his first six, and not being about the money.

No teams have yet been directly connected with Longoria, though there's been some media chatter about the Cardinals and Mets.

Realistically, there's probably less than a dozen teams that would be in position to take on his contract, and fewer who have an opening at third base. But with the Rays being – at the least – open to talk about dealing him, expect to hear more, and soon.