GazetteXtra Print Article Logo URL: http://www.tampabay.com/blogs/rays/2017/12/20/tampa-bay-rays-trade-franchise-cornerstone-evan-longoria-to-giants/


Tampa Bay Rays trade franchise cornerstone Evan Longoria to Giants

By Marc Topkin
Evan Longoria's walkoff homer in Game 162 of the 2011 season was his signature moment. [Times photo]

The Rays have said so long to Evan Longoria.

Longoria, the greatest player in franchise history, was traded Wednesday to the San Francisco Giants.

"It's obviously a tough day for myself and my family," Longoria said on a conference call.

For Longoria and cash considerations, the Rays are getting back INF Christian Arroyo (from Hernando), veteran OF Denard Span (from Tampa) plus Class A RHP Stephen Woods and Class A LHP Matt Krook. Part of the cash considerations likely include a $2-million bonus Longoria is due from the acquiring team in being traded.

PHOTO GALLERY: LONGO WENT LONG BUT NOW GONE

Longoria, 32, has been the face of the Rays for nearly a decade, a 2006 first round pick who reached the majors in April 2008 and quickly became a franchise cornerstone player and fan favorite.

General manager Erik Neander called Longoria "our greatest Ray" and said the decision to deal him was "incredibly difficult" but when they weighed all factors,  "We felt that this was in the best long term interests of our franchise to hopefully point us back towards into a World Series, and ideally winning one, sooner rather than later."

The Rays have been reluctant to deal Longoria because of his talent, leadership and the commitment he has shown to them, twice signing long-term, below-market deals.

But they changed their thinking this off-season with the opportunity to shed his $13.5 million salary for 2018, and the overall $86 million he is guaranteed, with a 2023 option pushing the total to $94 million, as part of an effort to trim payroll.

YOUR TURN: TELL US HOW YOU FEEL ABOUT THE TRADE

An additional factor is that in April, by having 10 years in the majors and at least five with the same team, Longoria will gain no-trade rights, which the Rays refuse to agree to include in contracts because it limits their flexibility.

Neander acknowledged that both the finances and no-trade rights were factors in the decision but that it was made in the long-term view, which he acknowledged may take some time to come together.

"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."

Longoria praised Rays officials for how they handled the process, keeping him informed of the possibility of being traded and sending him to a team with a chance to win. Also, that he didn't want to be part of an extended rebuilding process.

"I don't blame them," he  said. "I feel they felt they are in a position they need to make some drastic changes. … I think they felt this was the best time for them to rebuild from the ground up."

Though Span is an established player, Arroyo, 22, is likely the key to the deal for the Rays as one of the Giants top prospects. A 2013 first-round pick from Hernando High, Arroyo made his big-league debut on April 24 last season after a hot start at Triple-A. He made 32 starts for the Giants (21 at 3B, 9 at SS, 2 at 2B) while hitting .192 with three homers and 14 RBIs, then was sent back to the minors in early June and played in eight games before sustaining a broken left hand. The Rays say he is expected to be ready for opening day.

Span, 33, is a 10-year major-league veteran with the Giants, Nationals and Twins, who made him a 2002 first-round pick out of Tampa Catholic. He has a .283 career average with 243 doubles, 65 triples, 60 home runs, 432 RBI and 176 steals.

He made 116 starts in center last year, hitting .272 with 31 doubles, five triples, and a career-high 12 homers, 43 runs batted in and 12 stolen bases. He was . He is one of three NL outfielders with double-digit homers and steals in each of the last two seasons, joining Milwaukee's Ryan Braun and Colorado's Charlie Blackmon.

Span is owed a $9-million salary for 2018, plus either a $4-million buyout or a $12-million mutual option for 2019. There is also a $3-million signing bonus payment due in January.

Though Longoria said at the end of last season he expected to stay with the Rays and still hoped to finish his career with them there had been considerable chatter throughout the off-season, and by the Dec. 10 start of the winter meetings he seemed resigned to being dealt.

"I don't know what to think, really,'' he said, in a text response to questions from the Tampa Bay Times. "I think they have made it pretty clear that they want to cut salary, so I guess that leaves me somewhere in limbo.

''I think I've been pretty upfront about wanting to be in Tampa (Bay) for my whole career, but I realize that my window is getting smaller to win a championship. If they decide to rebuild completely and give everyone up, then I suppose my family and I will adjust.''

Longoria is coming off a season in which he won his third Gold Glove at third base but took a step back offensively, hitting .261 with 20 homers, 86 RBIs and a .737 OPS. It was his fifth straight season, and ninth in his first 10 in the majors, that he hit at least 20 homers.

He is a three-time All-Star, was the American League Rookie of the Year in 2008, won the Silver Slugger award in 2009 and has finished in the top 20 of the AL MVP voting six times.

The team record holder in many offensive categories, Longoria is probably most known for his dramatic 2011 Game 162 12th-inning walkoff homer that pushed the Rays into the playoffs in one of the wildest regular-season finishes in major-league history. In doing so, he joined Bobby Thomson of the 1951 Giants as the only players to put their teams into the postseason with walkoff homers in the final game of the regular season.

In addition to being one of the key players on the field, Longoria has been involved in numerous charitable causes in the Tampa Bay area, most notably the Pet Pal animal shelters, the Reading with the Rays program, and the Great Explorations Children's Museum, to which they recently donated $500,000. He is also an owner of the Ducky's sports lounge in Tampa.

"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."

Longoria joined the Rays shortly into the 2008 season and agreed then a six-year deal that guaranteed him $17.5-million and, with three option years, could be worth $44.5-million over nine years.

Then the Rays topped that in November 2012, tacking on six more years for another $100-million. At that point Longoria was signed for 10 years and guaranteed $136.6-million, the largest contract for any Tampa Bay area athlete.

Going into 2018, the Rays owed him $13.5-million for the coming season, plus $14.5-million in 2019, $15-million in 2020, $18.5-million in 2021, $19.5-million in 2022 and either a $5-million buyout of an option or a $13-million salary in 2023, which could increase depending on is 2022 play. Also, Longoria gets a $2-million bonus for being traded.

"There clearly hasn't been a player since we've been here that's stepped into the shoes like Evan has, and done everything that this franchise has needed to have the success that we had," Sternberg said in announcing the second long-term deal.

"We've seen everything that Evan is all about. We're not only going to have a player here for the very long term, somebody we would expect and believe could be a Ray for life, but we also have a person, who without his intangibles that he has as a human being, the way he lives his life, the way he leads by example, the way he goes at it behind the scenes, as well as on the field, we wouldn't be doing this."

This is a breaking story and will be updated.