When things go bad for any sports team, sometimes the fan base begins to talk crazy talk. For the fan base of the Tampa Bay Rays it’s been a struggle to stay positive over the last few seasons for many reasons, not just the porous play on the field. It all seemed to stem from the sudden parting of ways with legendary skipper, Joe Maddon, after the 2014 season, the Rays first losing campaign since 2007. Since then it’s been…an adjustment to say the least. Bringing in Kevin Cash to take over before the 2015 season was a bit of a shocker considering he had zero experience managing at any level of baseball.
But think about how hard that adjustment has been. Sure, there was some promise after finishing just two games below .500 in Cash’s first season as manager. After all, he’d finished with a better record than “JoMa” the year before. Of course, the 2016 season has been an absolute nightmare. But think about the adjustment to having someone else man the “hot corner” on a daily basis. Someone else not named Evan Longoria…the man who’s been a staple at that position since 2008 winning two Gold Gloves and playing Gold Glove-caliber defense year in and year out. Think about having to adjust to a new “face of the franchise.” A new leader. A new head to this snake that’s obviously in a re-building phase.
Pretty scary thought, if you ask me.
Evan Longoria will be 31 years young come October and he’s on pace at the All Star Break of having career numbers in many offensive categories. Remember those who said he’d lost a step? Well, he’s shoving those critics’ words down all of their throats through the first half of this season. Yet, when things go as bad as they’ve been this season, fans now want to throw around talk of trading their beloved third baseman. My question to these fans…or even some baseball “experts” is this – why? What could possibly come of that aside from freeing up the money attached to Longo’s contract? Which, by the way, means little to nothing in the grand scheme of things.
Longoria is signed through the 2022 season and is due to make $13M next year after pulling in $11.5M this season. Based on his production in 2016, he’s well worth the money and keeping around to help rebuild a franchise that is a shell of what it was from 2008-2013 under Maddon.
Looking at the Rays options to, god forbid, replace a player of Longoria’s caliber – they actually would have some prospects who could pan out over time. Richie Shaffer, for example. Fans got a look at him last season and saw just how much raw power he has – despite his troubling strikeout numbers and struggles on defense. The upside to Shaffer, aside from his paycut, would be his versatility. He can play both corner infield positions as well as right field, something Longoria does not and has not offered while with the team. My ideal situation with Shaffer, who will no doubt be back in MLB at some point this season, most likely to stay, is at first base while keeping Longoria at third.
The other option the Rays have in their system is Patrick Leonard, also currently at Durham. The 23-year old can play both corner positions, as well, but does not provide the raw power that Shaffer brings, however his defense has proven to be much more reliable.
Other than those, in-house options, the Rays would need to get an absolutely huge return for the three-time All Star and former Rookie of the Year. One that would provide both top prospects as well as a piece or two that can be used immediately to help this team get back to some sort of respectability. The price tag would be too great for any team wanting Longoria’s services and the damage it would do to this franchise’s already fragile state would be too great to justify…at least at this time.
Losing the most beloved manager in team history was bad enough. Losing the most beloved player? That might be a setback this team doesn’t recover from for a long time.
It’s been an adjustment the last few seasons, to say the least.
Trading away the best player in your franchise’s history then, now, and maybe ever is not the answer.
In my eyes, Evan Longoria began his career as a Ray and when it’s all said and done, he’ll retire as a Ray. That’s not just the way it has to be – it’s the way it should be.
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