Originally written on Fangraphs  |  Last updated 11/16/14
B1
Until he was dethroned by Mike Trout this summer, Evan Longoria had been a fixture atop my annual Trade Value series. It was partially due to the fact that he was both young and an excellent player, but, primarily, he ruled the list because his contract was so absurdly slanted in the Rays favor. Despite already racking up +29 WAR in his first four years in the Majors, Longoria has made a total of $8.5 million in salary to date, and is scheduled to make just $6 million in 2013. For comparison, Joey Votto — who also broke into the league as a full-time player in 2008 — has made $16 million thus far, is slated to make $17 million in 2013, and signed a $225 million extension that will keep him in Cincinnati through his age 37 season. Well, today, Longoria joined Votto, Troy Tulowitzki, and Ryan Braun in signing contracts that should essentially take him through the rest of his productive career. The extension is officially for nine years, beginning next season, though it begins by guaranteeing the three team options the Rays already held for 2014-2016. Under the previously agreed upon deal, Longoria will earn $7.5 million, $11 million, and then $11.5 million before the new years under the contract he signed today kick in. The breakdown of the contract hasn’t been released yet, but the new deal adds six more years and $100 million in guaranteed salaries, so the AAV of the extension is right around $17 million per season for his 2017-2022 seasons, and then there’s a team option — apparently mandatory if signing a deal with Tampa Bay — for 2023. The deal falls far short of the total guarantee that Votto extracted from the Reds last summer, but is more comparable to the extensions signed by Tulowitzki and Braun. Tulo was under club control for an additional four years when he signed new contract that was essentially a six year, $119 million extension. Braun had five years left on his current deal with Milwaukee when he agreed to a five year, $105 million extension with the Brewers. Longoria got a little less than both in terms of total guaranteed money, but these extensions clearly were based on the same premise — locking up a franchise player through his mid-30s costs $100ish million if he’s still a long way off from free agency. There’s clearly some added risk to the Rays franchise in signing up for the age 31 to 36 seasons of a guy who has had some injury issues, especially because a lot of his value is tied up in his defense at third base. While they’re not exactly the same player, Longoria does share a decent amount in common with Eric Chavez, and his age 29-34 seasons — he accumulated a total of +2.2 in those six seasons — serve as a warning to how quickly a great player can become an albatross. However, you don’t avoid contracts with players out of fear of the worst case scenario, and the reward here for Tampa Bay should be worth the added risk. With new television money pouring MLB, salaries are rising, and there are reasons to think they’re going to continue to rise quickly over the next few years. For mid-to-small revenue clubs like Colorado, Milwaukee, Cincinnati, and Tampa Bay, this new money is allowing them to make long term commitments to their elite stars, keeping their best home-grown developed players with their original franchises. This is undeniably a good thing for the sport. Previous rounds of inflation have been instigated through free agency, with a few large spenders pushing up the prices for everyone. Now, we’re seeing the rising prices lead to free agency avoidance, and teams are dipping into their future payrolls to keep their current stars in place. If we assume that player prices keep rising in MLB, Longoria’s contract is still going to look like a pretty big bargain even when the new money kicks in. Even just assuming five percent annual inflation — which could easily be too low — the market price of a win by the end of this deal should be in the $8 to $10 million range. The Rays are essentially locking up Longoria at rates that would pay him along the lines of what we’d expect an average player to make in free agency from 2017 to 2022. While Longoria probably won’t be a superstar in 10 years, he should be able to maintain enough of his skills to match that needed level of production. Eventually, one of these contracts is going to blow up on the signing team like the Chavez deal did for the A’s. The Rays are going to have to hope Longoria’s hamstring issues don’t persist long term, and that he’s able to stay on the field enough to justify these contracts even as his body begins to wear down. But, given the price they got and the money that MLB is distributing to each team because of the deals signed with ESPN, Fox, and TBS, this is a gamble the Rays could afford to make. And, really, that’s about the best post possible news that MLB teams can give their fans. Instead of inflation causing everyone to rush towards giant free agent paydays, teams are now keeping their stars from ever having the chance to leave. It’s good for the organizations, good for the players, and great for the game as a whole.
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Michigan brass in Bay Area for Jim Harbaugh pursuit

Report: Rex Ryan has already cleaned out his office

Clint Trickett retires due to concussions, hid two

Drew Stanton likely out for the year, postseason included

Byron Scott: ‘Idiots’ think Lakers are better team without Kobe

Undrafted QB Connor Shaw to sign with Browns, likely start

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Report: Alex Smith out Week 17 with lacerated spleen

Belichick: Garoppolo has better understanding of NFL

Lionel Hollins: 'Honored and blessed to coach Kevin Garnett'

Curt Schilling gives Johnny Manziel advice on Twitter

The last time the Lions won in Green Bay

Carmelo Anthony: The Knicks are dying

Doug Fister bought Starbucks for his Twitter followers

DeMarco Murray dumped over cheating accusations?

Video: Rudy Gay tosses half-court alley-oop to McLemore

WATCH: Craig Sager is touched by outpouring of support during leukemia fight

Hiroki Kuroda returns to Japan, ditches Yankees

Kevin Garnett: ‘Very weird’ to see Celtics without Rajon Rondo

Report: New Jersey Devils fire head coach Peter DeBoer

Mark Richt confirms Todd Gurley will leave UGA for NFL

Frank Gore: Colin Kaepernick is 'not broke'

The story of Morgan Bulkeley and birth of National League

Five breakout stars in 2014

The 2014 NFL All-Help Offense

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.

Murray dumped over cheating scandal?

Rex Ryan has cleaned out his office

Five breakout stars in 2014

The 2014 NFL All-Help Offense

Five things learned about NBA on X-Mas

What if Bear Bryant coached in the NFL?

Carmelo Anthony: The Knicks are dying

The last time the Lions won in Green Bay

Year's most notable sports media stories

'Roberto Gronkowski wishes fans Feliz Navidad

Are the Seahawks back on track?

Wright reaches out to slain officer's sons

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.