The Rays will make a decision today or tomorrow about the fate of Evan Longoria and where he will begin the 2008 baseball season. All signs indicate that the Rays will send The Dirtbag back to the minors for a little more seasoning.

Many have argued that the smart business decision is to keep Longoria in Durham for the first two months of the season. If Longoria begins the 2008 season with the Rays he will be eligible for arbitration following the 2010 season. On the other hand, if the Rays wait until the end of May to promote baseball’s 2nd ranked prospect, they can delay his arbitration-eligibility until after the 2011 campaign. Waiting to begin his major league career can also delay his first year of free agency eligibility until after the 2014 season.

If the Rays do not secure Longoria with a long-term deal a demotion could mean a difference of $4-8 million in his 2010 salary and an extra year of service. And even if the Rays do agree to a long-term deal with Longoria, his arbitration-eligibility will be a deciding factor in how the contract is structured and could mean the difference in $1-2 million for each year of the deal.

But there is another financial factor to consider with this decision. Public Perception and the growth of the RAYSHEAD ARMY. The casual baseball fan views the Tampa Bay Rays as a laughingstock. The casual baseball fan sees a $28 million payroll in 2007 and they see a team that does not care about winning. Most importantly, the casual baseball fan sees very few reasons to root for the Rays and dozens of reasons to root against them.

The Rays new management has taken a lot of strides in the last 2+ years to change the perceptions of the casual baseball fan. We have begun to see the fruits of those labors this spring with an unprecedented amount of national media attention. National writers speak of the Rays as a team that is ready to step forward…a team that is ready to break out. Some National writers have even mentioned the Rays as a potential playoff contender.

Stuart Sternberg and Co. are trying to convert this unprecedented positive attention into new fans. Sternberg and Co. are trying to spread their gospel to casual baseball fans throughout the state of Florida and prove that the Rays are indeed serious about winning and that the Rays are worthy of their fandome. The RAYSHEAD ARMY is small, but it is growing. It has momentum.

However, if the Rays send Longoria to the minors, the public perception is going to be that it is just the “Rays being the Rays”. This move will prove the perceptions of the casual fan even if it is incorrect. The casual fan will not see a 22-year old prospect that needs a little more seasoning. They will look and see that the Rays do care more about saving a few dollars than they do about winning.

If the Rays demote Evan Longoria and the team gets off to a slow start…a very real possibility with Scott Kazmir on the DL…then all of the momentum that the Rays have built this off-season and this spring will be lost. Losing that momentum could eventually cost the franchise thousands of fans and millions of dollars. Casual baseball fans that want a team to root for, will once again turn their back on the Tampa Bay Rays as if the Devil never left.

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11 Comments

  1. Jake says:

    Not so fast, as Lee Corso would say.

    Evan Longoria doesn't have Scott Boras as his agent. He shares the same agent as SS Troy Tulowitski has. Y'know, the guy who powered the Rockies line-up and signed an offseason contract after only 1 year of play.

    Evan has a "whatever the player wants", so if Evan wants to sign a long-term deal with us at a hometown discount....this guy won't try to drive up the price for an extra buck.

    Plus, many believe that Longoria will start the season in the minors but still be a Super-2 eligible. Only you, I believe, predict him to be held back to where he doesn't even get that distinction. If he's a Super 2, he'll actually cost around the same or even more than had he would've had he played on Opening Day.

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  2. The Professor says:

    and as everybody else says "don't count your Evan Longoria long-term contracts until they hatch"

    no matter what the reasons are for demotion, once he is sent down, why not keep him down long enough to cover all the bases? it is only a few more weeks and the backlash is already in place.

    and even with a long-term contract extension, arbitration eligibility always plays a factor in how those deals are structured.

    let's take the guy you brought up. Tulowitzki. Under his new deal, this year he will make $750K. Next year? the same $750K. It is not until 2010 that his salary jumps to $3.5M.

    why the big jump in 2010? Because that would have been his first year of arbitration eligibility. That is the first year the team is required to open the check book for their young stud.

    If the Rays keep Longoria in the minors until the end of May they postpone that bump until 2012. If they bring him before then, the bump happens a year earlier. EVEN WITH A LONGTERM CONTRACT. It is simple baseball mathematics.

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  3. EricSanSan says:

    I love the enthusiasm for the fan base, but this is why you have management in place.

    You can't let emotion enter the decision, it has to be an analytical look at the pluses and minuses of the situation.

    Two months of a relatively young Longoria doesn't outweight a full season of a 27-year old Evan in his prime.

    Fans are fickle, and the ones you are talking about come on the bandwagon once you start winning.RAYSHEAD will follow this team no matter what, because they care.

    The extras come with "W"'s, whether's that 2008 or 2010, it will happen. This decision won't change that. One player cannot mask the bottom of the rotation issues, or the fact that your ace may miss half of the opening month.

    Everyone seems to believe that Longoria's success in the majors will be a certainty. For every Ryan Braun who tears it up is a Delmon Young or Alex Gordon who struggles to gain their footing. Why take a year off the back end of Evan's Rays tenure (assuming they don't sign him, which is possible) for two months of a coin flip scenario?

    You have to be realistic. When you get to that point, you realize there's no reason to rush him. The Rays aren't competing for a title this year, like they will be later if they stick to the plan of cultivating their talent and allowing it bloom together all at once.

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  4. Anonymous says:

    i dont have a link, but i read a recent article that showed that top-10 hitting prospects are almost a sure thing. something like 90% become everyday major leaguers. A large percentage will be all-star level. Pitchers on the other hand are the prospects that miss often.

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  5. stunna says:

    I guess I'm the only one that sees no point in sending him to the minors. I don't care how old he is. He is our best third baseman, bottom line. The sooner he gets regular playing time in the majors, the better.

    Even if he struggles early, it's not like he's going to cry like a little girl and regress in his development. Growing pains are just part of the process. Longoria seems like a very mature, intelligent, and confident guy. Keeping him in the minors won't speed up his development, it'll just hurt the major league club because he won't be here to help us.

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  6. Anonymous says:

    and nobody here is even really considering free agency. most of us assume a long-term deal will get done at some point. The Prof and others are really just arguing semantics about when it WOULD occur in relation to getting a long-term deal done. As long as Longoria doesn't bust or develop what Rocco has, he will still be a Ray in his 7th season no matter when he is called up

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  7. The Professor says:

    stunna, i am with you. Longoria is the best third baseman and offers the Rays a better lineup than Aybar does. And better defense. Therefore the Rays are better with Dirtbag.

    And i completely agree. There is nothing to suggest that Longoria can't become a great hitter while learning the last few details at the major league level. in fact i expect it.

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  8. Anonymous says:

    As a Durham Bulls fan and NOT a Tampa Bay fan.. I say SEND HIM DOWN! Sorry guys, I would love for the 5 kids to be able to say they saw him the year he went to the show.

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  9. Anonymous says:

    "Anonymous said...

    As a Durham Bulls fan and NOT a Tampa Bay fan.. I say SEND HIM DOWN! Sorry guys, I would love for the 5 kids to be able to say they saw him the year he went to the show."

    lol what an asshole. how are you a durham bulls fan and not a rays fan? if you're not a rays fan why are you on this site?

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  10. Anonymous says:

    there are quite a lot of fans of the Bulls that are NOT fans of the Rays. The Bulls have been around a lot longer than the Rays have. and people that live in the Durham area do root for the Bulls regardless of who the major league team is (it used to be the Braves). Certainly they root for the players once they are promoted as the fans often get to know the players in these small towns quite well.

    also keep in minds that agreements between major and minor league teams are usually only for 3-5 years at a time. no guarantee that Bulls will still be a AAA team for the Rays in 5 years but the Bulls will still be the Bulls.

    And there is coverage of the minor league teams on this site.

    i know it seems like a strange concept for many baseball fans, but there are people that root for minor league teams to actually win.

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  11. Anonymous says:

    As a Yankee fan, I must admit that the American League East will probably be the single toughest division in the Majors. Tampa Bay is a big reason for that. I think they should suck up the money situation and just put the best team out there to perform.

    Once the fans see the commitment to winning, you'll see more people in the seats when other teams besides the Yankees and Boston come into town.

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