Evan Longoria is currently the face of the Rays’ franchise, and he has been setup to be the face of the franchise, forever. Longoria and the Rays agreed on a six year contract extension for $100 million. It’s bigger than that though. Longoria has one year remaining on his entry level deal, then he’ll make $47.5 million from 2014-16 before the six year extension kicks in that will play him $100 million from 2017-22. In the end, the deals break down as 14 years and $147.5 million. “Evan has clearly become a cornerstone player and a fixture in our organization,” Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg said in a statement. “We are proud of what we have accomplished these past seven years, and I expect the best is yet to come.” Here is what I think.
(1) The Rays have gotten themselves one hell of a bargain in Longoria. Here is Jeff Passan’s breakdown of Longoria’s contract before his just added on extension. Only one other player in baseball is signed through the 2022 season and that is Joey Votto who is signed through 2023. From now until 2022 Votto is set to earn $210 million, just $74 million more than Longoria.
(2) The Rays had better damn well hope that Longoria doesn’t remain the AL version of Troy Tulowitzki, an elite player who just cannot stay on the field. Longoria did appear in 150 games in 2009 and 2010, but that number fell to 133 in 2011 and just 74 games last year as a hamstring issue continued to bother him (it was announced that Longoria also had a minor surgery on his left hamstring back on November 20th). Was this just a couple year hiccup in what will be a long career of excellence, or should the Rays be nervous about locking up a guy for so long who has missed 117 games over the course of his age 25 and 26 year old seasons?
Time will tell.
The on the field production for Longoria is pretty impressive. Per 162 games in his career an average Longoria season would lead to a .276 average, 33 homers, 116 RBIs, 97 runs scored and nine steals. There wasn’t a single third baseman in baseball that reached all of those numbers last season (if we cheat and count Edwin Encarnacion as a third baseman he’s close but he still fell six runs batted in and four runs short). However, because of the injuries, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out a few salient facts.
In five big league seasons Longoria has hit .276 just three times.
In five big league seasons Longoria has hit 33 homers one time.
In five big league seasons Longoria has knocked in 116 runs – not once.
In five big league seasons Longoria has scored 97 runs one time.
In five big league seasons Longoria has stolen nine bases two times.
The fact is that Longoria has been an amazing player over 162 games but he’s failed to stay healthy long enough to reach those “averages” for the majority of his young career. Just some food for thought before you go and spend a first or second round draft pick on Longoria.
A quick look at the skills.
Last season Evan had a 10.6 percent walk rate. The mark is 11.1 percent for his career. Last season Evan had a K-rate of 19.6 percent. For his career that mark is 19.8 percent. Adding the two together Longoria had a 0.54 K/BB ratio in ’12, just off his 0.56 career mark. Remember that all of these numbers are just a smidge above average, so it’s nothing to be overly excited about.
Longoria’s BABIP was .313 in 2012, just above his career mark of .303. Longoria did rap out liners at a 21.9 percent clip last year but that was far in excess of his career best mark of 20.3 percent or his career rate of 19.6 percent. Those facts combined with his barely better than average BB/K mark isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement that Longoria will ever be a .300 hitter. That doesn’t mean his average is going to go all Dunn-like, it never will, but make sure you realize that he’s more .280 and .310.
The power is legit, but that doesn’t mean he’s a lock to be the next 40 homer third sacker. Longoria has posted a HR/F ratio of at least 17.6 percent in four of his five seasons. That’s a strong number. However, he doesn’t loft as many fly balls as would be ideal for a power hitter. For his career his 0.93 GB/FB does tilt slightly to the fly ball, but it’s only about a tenth better than the league average. There’s nothing wrong with Longoria pounding out 30-35 homers every year though, is there? Exactly.
The ongoing leg issues with Longoria are a concern. He should be 100 percent by the start of next season, the surgery should see to that. People will look at the back of Longoria’s ball card and see that 15 steal effort in 2010 and get all excited. You shouldn’t let that fact obfuscate that in his other four big league seasons he’s averaged five steals a year, or that he has stolen only five bases the past two seasons. Set your sights on 10 steals and you are likely in a solid place to avoid substantial disappointment.
Evan Longoria could win an MVP award or two. He’s got the talent to be that type of impact player. At the same time he’s coming off two injury filled seasons at an age where he should be healthy. He’s also one of those players that people look at and think .295-35-125-100-15 and they draft him accordingly. He’ll be cheaper in 2013 than he has been the past two years, but just like the case of Tulowitzki who I mentioned earlier, it’s pretty difficult to build your fantasy squad around a guy that you just can’t trust to be in the field. Chances are the Longoria will be fine, productive, an a borderline fantasy star in 2013. Just make sure you are going into this situation with your eyes wide open if you take him at the top of your fantasy draft.
By Ray Flowers