Back in 2008, just a few days after reaching the majors, Evan Longoria signed a six-year, $17.5 million contract that included club options for 2014 through 2016.
It was really the first deal of its kind, since Longoria and the Rays had agreed to the parameters of the deal before Longoria had ever played a major league game. For Longoria, it provided lifetime security, in case of a career-ending injury or the possibility that he never developed into a star player. For the Rays, the risk was minimal and the potential savings enormous. Longoria did, of course, develop into a great player and the Rays have benefited from the most team-friendly contract in the majors. Even in 2016, Longoria will make just $11.5 million (or $14 million depending on MVP voting results). At either salary, it projects as a bargain for a potential MVP candidate.
Still, Monday's announcement that Longoria has agreed to a six-year, $100 million contract extension came as a bit of a surprise. Wasn't David Wright the third baseman who was supposed to sign the big extension this offseason?
Here's how Longoria's salaries now line up, assuming an annual average salary of $16.67 million for the six-year extension:
2013 (age 27): $6 million
2014 (age 28): $7.5 million
2015 (age 29): $11 million
2016 (age 30): $11.5 to $14 million
2017 (age 31): $16.67 million
2018 (age 32): $16.67 million
2019 (age 33): $16.67 million
2020 (age 34): $16.67 million
2021 (age 35): $16.67 million
2022 (age 36): $16.67 million
2023 (age 37): Club option
Overall, that's at least 10 more seasons of Longoria for $138.5 million, plus the 2023 club option. Compare that to some other contracts: Prince Fielder, nine years for $214 million; Adrian Gonzalez, seven years for $154 million; Matt Kemp, eight years for $160 million; Albert Pujols, 10 years for $240 million; Joey Votto, 10 years for $225 million.
Longoria at $16.67 million per season still looks like a relative bargain, even into his mid-30s. It's not without risk, however. Longoria did play just 74 games in 2012 because of a partially torn left hamstring. He missed a month in 2011 with an oblique injury.
An obvious comparison to Longoria's deal is the six-year, $100 million contract that Ryan Zimmerman signed with the Nationals, a deal that takes Zimmerman from 2014 through 2019, his age-29 through age-34 seasons. Here's a comparison of each player's wins above replacement by age:
Age 21: Zimmerman 2.6
Age 22: Longoria 4.5, Zimmerman 4.4
Age 23: Longoria 6.7, Zimmerman 2.6
Age 24: Longoria 7.8, Zimmerman 7.1
Age 25: Longoria 7.2, Zimmerman 6.0
Age 26: Longoria 2.3, Zimmerman 1.6
Age 27: Zimmerman 3.8
Kind of eerie how the two parallel each other, right down to the significant injury issues in their age-26 seasons, although Longoria has been the slightly more valuable player. Zimmerman bounced back in 2012, although not at the same level as his 2009-10 peak. But Zimmerman's injuries have been with his back and shoulder, more debilitating concerns than a hamstring. That's no guarantee that Longoria's hamstring issues won't resurface, but you know the Rays have done their research and wouldn't sign the deal without expecting Longoria to be healthy.
Importantly for the future of the Rays, it means they'll have a middle-of-the-order bat for a decade. After losing Carl Crawford and now B.J. Upton, the Rays have finally locked up a star hitter. With national TV revenues more than doubling in 2014 to $50 million per team, the Rays will have a little more financial means down the road, even while stuck in Tropicana Field. Maybe that means the team will be able to afford ace pitcher David Price when he becomes a free agent after 2015.
If any GM can figure out a way to fit Longoria and Price into a limited budget, it will be Andrew Friedman. And that means the Rays have a good chance to remain competitive in the tough AL East.
Now, about Mr. Wright ...