Following the news of Shohei Ohtani and Giancarlo Stanton the MLB hot stove had somewhat cooled down. Then today news breaks that the Tampa Bay Rays have traded away their best player in franchise history, sending Evan Longoria to the San Francisco Giants in exchange for Denard Span and prospects. What’s unique about this move is it got me thinking more about the past than what this means for the future.
It’s not a hot take to call Longoria the best Ray of all time. He leads the franchise in games played, home runs, RBIs, doubles, runs scored, WAR, and a bunch of other obscure offensive stats. He won three gold gloves, one silver slugger, made three All-Star teams, was the 2008 Rookie of the Year, and helped lead the organization to it's only World Series appearance.
Longoria has been with Tampa since they started turning things around. Entering 2008 they had been a laughing stock in baseball, basically the Cleveland Browns of the sport. They had some good players - mainly Carl Crawford, - but had yet to build a winning culture. In 2008 they were the first team to starting aggressively shifting their fielders on defense. It worked, culminating in an AL East title and an epic 7 game series with the Boston Red Sox. The Rays took down the defending champs before falling in the World Series to the Phillies. The Longoria led Rays remained competitive for years after that, but they were never able to recapture the '08 magic.
As for what this mean for the San Francisco Giants, their fans shouldn’t expect to see the best years of Longo’s career. He’s still #good, but those peak seasons are likely behind him. Worsening the situation is the fact he’s owed $87 million over the next five years. Since he signed that extension back in 2012 he has hit just .265/.325/.457. He makes the Giants better, but it's fair to temper expectations for a 32-year-old who has been trending downwards.
That being said, he’s still valuable and even though San Fran had the year from Hell in 2017, they still have a strong core and are in win now mode. In fact they had a deal in place for Giancarlo Stanton before he vetoed it! That would’ve put them on the map as contenders, but Longoria isn’t the worse consolation prize. May as well make one more run with Posey, Bumgarner, and company.
There is no way to prove this, but Longo feels like the type who comes up big when it matters most. Maybe it’s the walk-off homer in 2011 Game 162 I’m remembering. Or maybe it’s all the havoc he reaked on the Red Sox and Yankees all those years. Either way he leaves Tampa Bay as the best who ever wore a Rays uniform.