ST. PETERSBURG — Getting called up to the majors, as it turns out, wasn't the best thing that happened to Evan Longoria a week ago Friday.
That was also the day that he and the Rays agreed in principle, and secrecy, to a stunning long-term deal that could keep the talented third baseman in Tampa Bay for nine seasons and pay him $44.5-million, and changed his life before he played his first day in the majors.
"It was kind of a whirlwind day," Longoria said. "And it's kind of continued like that since."
The deal, which had been under discussion since March, was announced Friday, hours before Longoria's seventh major-league game, but would have been consummated, both parties said, even if he hadn't been called up yet from Triple A.
With a guarantee of $17.5-million over six seasons (and $19-million if he doesn't go back to the minors), it is considered the largest contract for a player, not including a half-dozen veterans from Japan and Cuba, with less than one year of major-league service.
The Rays made the deal, essentially, because they could.
They project Longoria, 22, to be a star, and doing the deal — and doing it sooner rather than later — gives them cost certainty over what he will make during his arbitration years, extends their control through what likely will be his first two years of free agency, and could save them millions if he is as good as expected.
"With the economics of the game right now, and us being a low-revenue team, we have to think differently and take chances such as this to keep our nucleus in place for as long as we can," executive vice president Andrew Friedman said.
Aside from injury (which was an issue with Rocco Baldelli's long-term deal), the only downside for the Rays, Friedman acknowledged, would be a lack of performance. "But we believe in Evan as a person and as a player or we wouldn't do this," he said.
And, as it turns out, Longoria took the deal because he could.
While acknowledging the potential pressure (mostly self-inflicted) and higher profile that comes with the contract, Longoria said he wants to be part of what the Rays are building, enjoys the area, and relishes the benefits — financial and psychological — of the deal, even if means giving up some future earnings.
"As a player you have to look at what's best for you, and for me the security of a long-term contract and knowing now I'm pretty much set for life, that's just very, very assuring to me," he said. "I certainly have enough confidence in myself that I could go out and play a couple years and wait for arbitration, maybe make the $6- or $7-(million) a year, whatever it may be, but at the same time I'm not starved for money or anything. Just to have that security factor in the back of your mind and be able to go out and play the game is what I wanted. That's exactly why I did this deal."
Agent Paul Cohen said that as a business deal for Longoria, who received a $3-million bonus as the No. 3 pick of the 2006 draft, the contract is a good deal and essentially "eliminates all risk of performance."
As for the millions he potentially may have missed out on, Cohen said: "The downside is if he's a tremendous player, he's made about $45-million by the time he's 30 and he's a free agent and if he's that good, he's going to make another $100-$150-million then."
Under Stuart Sternberg's ownership, the Rays have signed several of their top young players to long-term deals, including most recently James Shields and Carlos Pena.
They're likely to pursue deals with others such as Scott Kazmir and B.J. Upton, though Friedman acknowledged it doesn't always work out.
"Some guys prefer the year-to-year and are actually more motivated by the year-to-year and perform better," Friedman said. "And some guys prefer to secure at least their first fortune and put themselves in a position to go out and get even deeper in Stu's wallet."
Marc Topkin can be reached at
Longoria's deal year-by-year
(or $2.5-million if eligible
$3-million buyout (or $4-million if arb eligble in 2011)
2015*$11-million or $1-million buyout of joint option
(or up to $14-million, based on MVP voting)
Longoria will donate up
to $725,000 to the Rays Baseball Foundation
* team options