Longoria's deal one worth mimicking
By Terence Moore |11/27/12 3:30 PM ET
The Tampa Bay Rays just did the right thing by signing Evan Longoria to one of those "forever" contracts. Thus a question: What's taking the Washington Nationals so long? They should do the same with Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg.
Inquiring minds have a similar question for the New York Yankees regarding Robinson Cano. With their prized second baseman due to become a free agent after next season, why not give him a Longoria deal now, especially since he is destined to become the successor to Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez in their clubhouse?
Plus, the combination of the baseball gods, Tony Bennett (as in, "I left my heart ...") and common sense knows that Buster Posey deserves a lifetime contract with the San Francisco Giants.
Mike Trout? I'm not saying his monster season as a rookie was a fluke, but before the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim think of committing to Trout like the Rays did to Longoria, they need to wait a little while -- like until the middle of next season.
These "forever" contracts work.
Well, most of the time. They are good for the player, because they guarantee that player a designated amount of income for long stretches, regardless of that player's ups and downs through it all. They are also good for the team, because if that player becomes even more prolific on the field, it saves the team from losing the player through free agency or having to engage in future bidding wars.
You can attribute such wisdom to John Hart, the former general manager and soothsayer of the Cleveland Indians.
During the early portion of Hart's decade with the Indians through 2001, he decided his small-market team with the sparkling new ballpark could have a mini-dynasty, but only if it did something radical. He asked ownership for permission to give long-term contracts to the Indians' core players, especially to those of youth and talent.
Indians ownership agreed with Hart, and then he gave his version of "forever" deals to the likes of Albert Belle, Kenny Lofton, Jim Thome, Carlos Baerga, Omar Vizquel, Manny Ramirez and Charles Nagy. From 1995-2001, they helped Cleveland go from one of the worst teams in baseball to capturing six division titles and two American League pennants.
The Indians also set a Major League record during that stretch with 455 consecutive sellouts at what was then known as Jacobs Field.
Even though the Milwaukee Brewers haven't precisely duplicated the Indians' model under Hart, they did give a "forever" contract to Ryan Braun. The same goes for the Colorado Rockies with Troy Tulowitzki, the Angels with Albert Pujols, the Detroit Tigers with Prince Fielder and the Cincinnati Reds with Joey Votto.
Bottom line: If you know somebody is a lasting star (or at least you think he is), why not sign him for the long run?
As MLB.com's Adam Berry wrote earlier this season: "Those lower-payroll clubs can't afford to make a huge free-agent investment then see it fail, but they can realistically risk a $10 million-$13 million mistake."
It's about using the right criteria for signing a "forever" player, and the blueprint looks much like Longoria.
You want somebody who can play.
Check. Since Longoria was named AL Rookie of the Year in 2008, he has been to the All-Star Game three times, and he has captured two AL Gold Glove Awards at third base. He also is one of 11 active players with an average of at least 25 home runs and 90 RBIs during his first five Major League seasons.
You want somebody who won't grow ancient with the contract.
Check. Longoria turned 27 last month.
You want somebody who can be the face of your franchise.
Check. Since Longoria is popular with teammates and fans, he is marketable for the Rays.
That said, during the early years of Longoria's career, he hasn't exactly been Lou Gehrig in terms of durability. This past season, he was around for only 74 games after partially tearing his left hamstring in April. He also missed much of the previous season with an oblique injury.
I never said "forever" deals are perfect.
Rodriguez was supposedly locked in with the Texas Rangers for life after he signed a 10-year deal for $252 million in 2000. Four years later, he was traded to the Yankees after the Rangers finished last in their division.
Then came the end of the 2007 season, when the Yankees gave Rodriguez his second "forever" contract. This one was for 10 years and $275 million. His results in the aftermath? Shaky. Among other things, he admitted to taking performance-enhancing drugs from '01-03, and he was benched last season during the playoffs due to his declining offensive skills.
Rodriguez is 37, and that will be Longoria's age when his current deal with the Rays expires.
Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman isn't concerned with it all. He told reporters after the Longoria contract became official, "I think there's risk essentially in everything we do. So in terms of the dollars, the number of years, there's certainly risk. Everything we do has an element of risk, has an element of risk for the player, and I think the most important thing is that both sides go to the table and want something to happen.
"It gives it a much better chance than not of that happening. And all sides understand and appreciate the risk associated with it."
Makes sense to me.