Evan Longoria has been promoted from AAA Durham and will make his major league debut tonight for the Tampa Bay Rays against the Baltimore Orioles.

The timing of the promotion raises several questions:

1. What has Longoria done in two weeks at Durham to show that he is now ready?

Not much. We were told that Willy Aybar was given the job out of spring training because Longoria was not ready. In 7 games, The Dirtbag was 5-25 (.200) with 1 RBI and ZERO extra-base hits. If the decision was indeed based completely on whether or not Longoria was ready, the Rays would not be calling him up now just to fill the hole created by the injury to Aybar. Longoria is no more ready after only 7 AAA games than he was at the end of March. Rather, the Rays would let Eric Hinske or Joel Guzman start at third base for the next two weeks.

2. Will Longoria still be the starting third baseman when Aybar comes off the DL?

If he struggles, the Rays have a built-in excuse to send Longoria back to Durham in two weeks. But that would just go back to the first question. Why bring him up now if he wasn’t considered “ready” at the end of spring training? Longoria was not on the 40-man roster. If the Rays were just looking for a two-week stop-gap, they would go with a player already on the 40-man roster. So maybe the job was his all along and the Rays were just waiting the requisite number of days to delay his free agency clock…which brings us to question #3…

3. Did the Rays keep Longoria in Durham long enough to delay the free agency clock?

A service year is considered 172 days. If a player spends 172 (or more) days on the major league roster they receive credit for a full season. The 2008 regular season ends on Sept. 28. If we are adding right, and we like to think we are…if The Dirtbag spends the rest of the season on the major league roster, he will accumulate only 167 service days. In other words, the Rays have successfully pushed back Longoria’s pending free agency. If Longoria would have been on the opening day roster, he would have been elegible for free agency following the 2013 season. Having waited only two weeks, Longoria will not be eligible for free agency until after the 2014 season. And while the Rays will certainly try to sign Longoria to a long-term deal, that one year delay will make a huge difference in the structure of any agreement reached between the two sides.

4. Who is out if Longoria sticks?

The Rays will have an interesting problem in a few weeks when Cliff Floyd and Aybar return from the DL (Aybar should only be gone 2 weeks, Floyd 4-6 weeks). Of the four players on the bench, Mike DiFelice and Elliot Johnson appear to be safe due to team needs (backup catcher/shorstop). Certainly Justin Ruggiano will be gone. But that leaves Hinske, Floyd, Gomes, Aybar and Nathan Haynes for four spots. Floyd, Gomes and Aybar are safe. That leaves Hinske and Haynes for one spot. Keep in mind that Haynes is the Rays best defensive right fielder and really the only backup center fielder, although Johnson and Gomes could do it in an emergency. Also keep in mind that all of those players are out of options. Might the Rays seek to trade Gomes or Hinske? There is a very good possibility. If not, they will be forced to DFA Haynes and let Gomes, Aybar and Hinske share the right field duties…and nobody wants that.

While the Rays did not keep Longoria down long enough to delay his arbitration eligibility, they did save the team a year on the back-end and the only cost to the fans and his teammates was 10 games. It is difficult to argue with the reasoning, but forgive us if we question the excuses.

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10 Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    What are you talking about?
    Aybar playing OF. Ha yeah right.

    Aybar will stay only because Longoria may struggle. Hinske will likely be traded especially if Zobrist comes back and resumes his utility role.

    Ruggiano is also likely to get the boot.

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  2. The Professor says:

    that is the point. Aybar was supposedly brought in to be a backup utility player once longoria was ready. So he will back up third and first but conceivably he will also back up the corner outfield spots.

    IF (big if) Haynes is DFA'd that would leave Gomes and Hinske to platoon in right. Both are subpar defensively and Aybar would certainly get a look.

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  3. Robert Rittner says:

    I see no reason to forgive you for questioning the excuses. It's not that your questions and interpretations are wrong; I think they are fundamentally correct. Rather, it is that they are simplistic, worthy of fan-speak, and not really analysis. The implicit criticism within them, that the Rays were "making excuses", misrepresents the issue.

    Here is another way of saying the same thing. Having decided that Longoria needed more time to work on his game, the Rays now show remarkable flexibility as they adjust to new realities. As Friedman himself said, these were not the conditions under which they wanted to promote him, but given the injuries and the competitive nature of their early season play, they are willing to risk bringing him up early in order to give the team the best chance to win.

    The fact is that while the Rays did state at the time that the free agency eligibility was not part of their consideration, we all know with reasonable certainty that that was not an excuse but a legitimate unwillingness to air all their motivations. On the other hand, any such decisions are based on multiple factors, factors which may change with time or whose relative significance may change.

    Now that the free agency issue is no longer the same, and now that injuries and defensive problems have multiplied, the need for Evan to work on specific skills at AAA may no longer be as primary as they were 7 games ago. In fact, Friedman said almost exactly that in his statement, that the few games he played at Durham were not adequate for their initial purposes but there were now other factors to consider.

    Additionally, the notion that "in the end it was all about the money" remains a silly comment. It is silly not because it isn't true but because it is both irrelevant and misleading. There is no such thing as "all about the money" since the money is always part of the larger picture of building a contender. The only people for whom it is not "all about the money" are head in the cloud nincompoops or mystics who derive satisfaction from avoiding contact with the real world.

    If it were really all about the money in the simplistic sense that you are asserting, the Rays would not call Longoria up until the arbitration clock was also moved back (a point you yourself have made before) and would not have gone over slot for Price etc. etc., etc.

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  4. Michael Connell says:

    you are assuming the Rays would have made the same decision if Aybar had gone on the DL on the 2nd day of the season. of course we will never know, but i am willing to bet that Longoria would still be in Durham.

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  5. The Professor says:

    As I said. If they were truly concerned about Longoria's development, they do have other options to play third for 2 weeks.

    And you are also assuming that the team is being truthful. it is my experience that ALL teams lie. most of the time they have good reasons for doing so. but that doesn't change the fact that a lot of the smoke is BS

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  6. Robert Rittner says:

    That is exactly my point. For public consumption, it is conventional to obscure the truth, or avoid it altogether. Commenting on that is akin to making a big point that players will often claim they signed because they loved a city rather than that they got a big contract. There is no news there, no reason even to suggest it's all smoke. And that is not even because it is so obvious, although repeating the obvious does no credit. It is because it is oversimplifying the case.

    The fact that the Rays sent Longoria down because they wanted to delay free agency is almost certain. There is no reason to make anything of it or to imply criticism that they did not state that as the truth.

    But to imply that such was the entire motivation is equally wrong. It is innocence masquerading as cynicism. In fact, there is no reason to doubt that other factors were involved. To what extent, I do not know, nor would I swear they did exist, but they are not improbable. Ignoring them and saying that "in the end it was all about the money" is as naive as saying money was irrelevant.

    There is no disconnect between valuing financial savings and working for the improvement of the team. In fact, the one is integral to the other. The statement "it is all about money" is plain silly. What the hell do you want it to be about? Wasting money? The way you build a contender is by husbanding of resources, including money. The two are symbiotic, not antagonistic.

    And furthermore, on the face of it, it is plain that money, purely as money, has not been the primary issue. Else, the Rays would keep Evan down to postpone arbitration, which is even more imminent, and likely more expensive, than free agency in the sense that by the time free agency rolls around the Rays will have more options.

    Aren't you tired of these stupid cliches and canned interpretations? "It's all about the money". Golly gee, dad, you mean the boys at the keg party don't want to discuss Schopenhauer?

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  7. The Professor says:

    i know that...you know that...but shhhhh...don't tell anybody, but there are people that *want* to read that. they want to be assured that what they feel/think/know is what others feel/think/know. it is comforting to know that others agree with you.

    so while writing about it may be akin to killing a fly with a sledge hammer...sometimes, it needs to be done. exaggerate to emphasize a point.

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  8. JC says:

    Wordy wordy wordy. Robert you may want to introduce yourself to the concept of word economy.

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  9. Anonymous says:

    i'd go so far as to say that if Longoria's clock was pushed back yet, Aybar would still be in the lineup playing through the hamstring issue AS HE HAS BEEN DOING FOR THE PAST MONTH. this is not a new problem. and it hasn't gotten any worse.

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  10. Tallyray says:

    Aybar should be thrown out into right and see if it works out. He is actually smaller than Hinske and Gomes. If it does work, the Rays become that much more flexible. Rotate Aybar, Gomes, and Hinske through DH and outfield. Let Gomes and Hinske be a strict platoon and play Aybar almost daily. Aybar is only 25, has a history of high OBP, and has shown glimpses of developing power. He needs regular at bats to see how good he can be. If they'd rather have Gomes and Hinske out there than they may as well just DH Aybar.

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