04/18/08 3:34 PM EST
Rays sign Longoria to multiyear contract
'Humbled' rookie's nine-year deal is longest in club history
By Bill Chastain / MLB.com
The contract is "very humbling," Longoria said. "... It's awesome to know that Andrew [Friedman, executive vice president of baseball operations] and Stu [Sternberg], the owner of this club, have so much faith in me so early in my career. So I think it's definitely going to make me work a little harder, to get in that cage a little earlier."
On Friday afternoon at a news conference at Tropicana Field, the Rays and the rookie third baseman announced an agreement on a nine-year contract a week after Longoria was promoted from Triple-A Durham to the Rays.
"This is obviously fairly unique," Friedman said. "But it was something both sides had interest in really exploring and talking about. And both sides had to make some concessions along the way to get to this point.
"... We have to stay open minded. The economics of the game and us being a low-revenue team, we have to think differently and take chances such as this to keep our nucleus in place as long as we can."
The salaries for the first six years of the agreement are guaranteed, with the team holding a one-year option for 2014 season and a subsequent two-year option for the 2015 and 2016 seasons. The contract guarantees $17.5 million. If the Rays exercise both options, Longoria would earn more than $44 million over the life of the nine-year agreement.
Longoria, 22, will donate up to $725,000 during the span of the contract to the Rays Baseball Foundation, the team's charitable foundation that supports youth and education programs in the Tampa Bay region.
Longoria likes what is happening with the Rays' organization, he enjoys playing in Florida -- which he called "the next best thing" to his native California -- and he likes the security of having a long-term contract.
"And knowing now that I'm pretty much set for life, that's just very assuring to me," Longoria said. "The money is one thing. ... What I wanted was to be set and just worry about going out and playing the game and winning."
Longoria does not anticipate any problems trying to live up to the contract.
"I've played this game for a long time, obviously, and I don't think the game changes at all," Longoria said. "So if I keep that same approach and keep going about my business the same way I do every day, I don't think money, contract talks, anything like that has any weight on how I perform."
Longoria got the call to the Major Leagues on April 11 after the Rays placed third baseman Willy Aybar on the 15-day disabled list with a sore left hamstring, which prevented a really unique occurrence.
"What's ironic here, if Willy hadn't gotten hurt, there's a very real scenario in which we announce this about now and him still being in Durham," said Friedman, who noted that in his conversations with Longoria's agent, Paul Cohen, they spoke candidly about whether Longoria being in the Major Leagues, or not, would affect the long-term deal.
Longoria would not have been eligible for free agency until after the 2014 season. But Cohen has done long-term deals with young clients in the past, such as Colorado's Troy Tulowitzki's six-year, $31-million contract.
The Rays have already signed Carl Crawford, Rocco Baldelli, James Shields, Carlos Pena, and Dan Wheeler to long-term contracts, while they have yet to with the likes of Scott Kazmir and B.J. Upton. Friedman did not offer any clarity on where the club stood with the talented pair.
"I will not comment specifically on players, but I think it's safe to assume that we have other very deserving players and I expect those conversations to continue," Friedman said. "But it really is a personal preference [for each individual player]... Some guys prefer the year-to-year and actually are more motivated by the year-to-year, and perform better in the year-to-year. Some guys prefer that."
Friedman did not anticipate a backlash in the clubhouse.
"I think there's the on-field part and the business part," Friedman said. "Everybody in the clubhouse recognizes and appreciates that. That's why they have agents. We've had conversations with a number of guys and a number of them have signed long-term contracts."
Friedman said the Rays will always have to manage their roster "years and years in advance to be able to compete in this division."
"It's the way the economics of the game are right now," Friedman said. "And it's something, instead of feeling sorry for ourselves, we've got to be proactive in doing anything and everything we can to succeed."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.