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.