Originally posted on Fox Sports Florida  |  Last updated 11/26/12
Timing in life is everything, even more so when that timing seems unusual. The Tampa Bay Rays announced Monday they had agreed to a six-year contract extension with star Evan Longoria. OK, that makes sense. Longoria, 27, is a power-hitting run producer who also sports a Gold Glove at third base. Hes one of 11 active players to average at least 25 homers and 90 RBIs during his first five seasons. Besides that, Longoria has been a solid presence in the clubhouse and the community. But why would Tampa Bay feel compelled to add six years to a contract that still had four years remaining, and guarantee an extra 100 million? Why now? Well, we dont like to do these things during the season, Rays owner Stuart Sternberg said. Um, Stu, we mean why now as in why extend a deal that had four years to go? It wasnt like we woke up one morning sometime a month ago and said, Hey, lets go talk about this. Sternberg said. Its a process that goes along. That process likely was a bit more complicated for the team than for Longoria, who was Tampa Bays third overall pick in 2006. My goal from Day 1 was to be the first player that played their whole career here, Longoria said Monday. To be the first guy that came into the organization and went out in the organization and played all the years in between as a Ray. Longorias new deal includes the remainder of the existing contract, which called for 36.6 million over the next four seasons. Theres also a team option for 2023. The extension doesnt include a no-trade clause, though Longoria will be able to block any deals after 2017 as a 10-year veteran who spent his last five years with the same team. He wont be a free agent at least until 2022. The free-agent market really never enticed me, Longoria said. Obviously, guys can maybe get a little more money here or there but is it realty worth it if youre not happy? In my opinion, no, Im happy here. The Rays undoubtedly had several reasons for taking a modest risk in offering Longoria the extension. Modest, because the only way Tampa Bay really loses is if Longoria suffers a career-altering injury -- something thats much less likely with a position player than with a pitcher. In Longoria, the Rays have locked up an offensive force, defensive vacuum cleaner and a face of the franchise. With big-market rivals New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox facing personnel challenges this offseason, the AL East crown should be a realistic goal for the Rays at least for the next several years, if not longer. Manager Joe Maddon has helped build a solid team that also includes AL Cy Young Award winner David Price. The only thing devilish about the current Rays is their ability to make life difficult for their opponents. While its hard to predict what the overall economy and spending in baseball will look like in three-four years, Tampa Bay, in extending Longoria, also made a commitment to its players, its fans and to the areas local business leaders and politicians. The last group earns a special mention because the Rays are seeking a new ballpark in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area. That has become an increased sensitive issue in Florida after the Miami Marlins opened a new publicly financed ballpark and then broke up their team after one disappointing season. A report by a panel of local business leaders released last week said both Pinellas and Hillsborough counties could raise about 350 million toward replacing Tropicana Field without imposing new taxes. (The Rays reportedly would have to contribute no less than 150 million.) But the Tampa Bay Business Journal reported Bay Area Financing Caucus said leveraging those public funds must be weighed against using the money for other public needs, and a decision needs to be made quickly. Whether the Rays stay at Tropicana Field through a lease that goes to 2027, build a new stadium or eventually relocate, Longoria figures to be along for the ride. A smart move, even if the extensions timing was unexpected.
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