Rays Extend Evan Longoria, Again

Until he was dethroned by Mike Trout this summer, Evan Longoria had been a fixture atop my annual Trade Value series. It was partially due to the fact that he was both young and an excellent player, but, primarily, he ruled the list because his contract was so absurdly slanted in the Rays favor. Despite already racking up +29 WAR in his first four years in the Majors, Longoria has made a total of $8.5 million in salary to date, and is scheduled to make just $6 million in 2013. For comparison, Joey Votto — who also broke into the league as a full-time player in 2008 — has made $16 million thus far, is slated to make $17 million in 2013, and signed a $225 million extension that will keep him in Cincinnati through his age 37 season.

Well, today, Longoria joined Votto, Troy Tulowitzki, and Ryan Braun in signing contracts that should essentially take him through the rest of his productive career. The extension is officially for nine years, beginning next season, though it begins by guaranteeing the three team options the Rays already held for 2014-2016. Under the previously agreed upon deal, Longoria will earn $7.5 million, $11 million, and then $11.5 million before the new years under the contract he signed today kick in.

The breakdown of the contract hasn’t been released yet, but the new deal adds six more years and $100 million in guaranteed salaries, so the AAV of the extension is right around $17 million per season for his 2017-2022 seasons, and then there’s a team option — apparently mandatory if signing a deal with Tampa Bay — for 2023.

The deal falls far short of the total guarantee that Votto extracted from the Reds last summer, but is more comparable to the extensions signed by Tulowitzki and Braun. Tulo was under club control for an additional four years when he signed new contract that was essentially a six year, $119 million extension. Braun had five years left on his current deal with Milwaukee when he agreed to a five year, $105 million extension with the Brewers. Longoria got a little less than both in terms of total guaranteed money, but these extensions clearly were based on the same premise — locking up a franchise player through his mid-30s costs $100ish million if he’s still a long way off from free agency.

There’s clearly some added risk to the Rays franchise in signing up for the age 31 to 36 seasons of a guy who has had some injury issues, especially because a lot of his value is tied up in his defense at third base. While they’re not exactly the same player, Longoria does share a decent amount in common with Eric Chavez, and his age 29-34 seasons — he accumulated a total of +2.2 in those six seasons — serve as a warning to how quickly a great player can become an albatross. However, you don’t avoid contracts with players out of fear of the worst case scenario, and the reward here for Tampa Bay should be worth the added risk.

With new television money pouring MLB, salaries are rising, and there are reasons to think they’re going to continue to rise quickly over the next few years. For mid-to-small revenue clubs like Colorado, Milwaukee, Cincinnati, and Tampa Bay, this new money is allowing them to make long term commitments to their elite stars, keeping their best home-grown developed players with their original franchises. This is undeniably a good thing for the sport. Previous rounds of inflation have been instigated through free agency, with a few large spenders pushing up the prices for everyone. Now, we’re seeing the rising prices lead to free agency avoidance, and teams are dipping into their future payrolls to keep their current stars in place.

If we assume that player prices keep rising in MLB, Longoria’s contract is still going to look like a pretty big bargain even when the new money kicks in. Even just assuming five percent annual inflation — which could easily be too low — the market price of a win by the end of this deal should be in the $8 to $10 million range. The Rays are essentially locking up Longoria at rates that would pay him along the lines of what we’d expect an average player to make in free agency from 2017 to 2022. While Longoria probably won’t be a superstar in 10 years, he should be able to maintain enough of his skills to match that needed level of production.

Eventually, one of these contracts is going to blow up on the signing team like the Chavez deal did for the A’s. The Rays are going to have to hope Longoria’s hamstring issues don’t persist long term, and that he’s able to stay on the field enough to justify these contracts even as his body begins to wear down. But, given the price they got and the money that MLB is distributing to each team because of the deals signed with ESPN, Fox, and TBS, this is a gamble the Rays could afford to make. And, really, that’s about the best post possible news that MLB teams can give their fans. Instead of inflation causing everyone to rush towards giant free agent paydays, teams are now keeping their stars from ever having the chance to leave. It’s good for the organizations, good for the players, and great for the game as a whole.




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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.

71 Responses to “Rays Extend Evan Longoria, Again”

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  1. Sleight of Hand Pro says:

    im confused. werent you the same guy that destroyed the ryan braun extension last year?

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    • Dave Cameron says:

      Yep. I incorrectly failed to anticipate the amount of money MLB teams were about to come into.

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      • JeffMathisCera says:

        Article on the Dodger TV deal forthcoming?

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      • Dave Cameron says:

        Wendy’s writing up the deal itself for tomorrow. I’m working on something more in general about TV contracts for sometime this week.

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      • Tomcat says:

        have the Dodgers squandered their advantage?

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      • Sleight of Hand Pro says:

        riiiight. thats the reason. im sure it being the rays has no effect on the article.

        if dayton moore makes this signing, its “i cant believe they committed 6 figures to a guy they controlled cheaply for the next 4 seasons anyway”

        dont hide behind the TV money thing. you had no insight to the brewers financials. its not the reason you hated the deal.

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      • Telo says:

        Ouch… How does the humble pie taste Cameron?

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      • Scraps says:

        My team team good, every one who slams them bad!

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      • One the characteristics of a rational person is the willingness to change his/her beliefs when the weight of evidence is against them.

        Yet for some reason Dave is getting ridiculed for doing this by some.

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      • Sleight of Hand Pro says:

        im not ridiculing the guy. im just pointing out obvious bias. In his recent chat he said there werent enough contracts/deals completed this offseason to know if the TV money coming in has an effect on salaries.

        now, a few days later, he uses the TV money affecting salaries as a way to put a positive spin on this transaction, even though just days ago he said there wasnt enough info. take the rays out, and its, say, the phillies making this move, it would of course be a completely different article.

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      • Scraps says:

        “Obvious bias”? You have an obvious bias: against Dave. You should have kept it to a single comment.

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      • Justin Bailey says:

        “if dayton moore makes this signing”

        My sides.

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    • Tomcat says:

      or the Tulo contract before that?

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  2. Anthony says:

    Glad he’s getting his money.

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  3. hmk says:

    I think the rays got another steal here. if Longo hit free agency in a few years he would’ve been looking at ridiculous money, probably from the yanks or sox, who would be pushing towards a $200mil deal for a 31 year old 3b. essentially, the rays decided to reward longoria for his loyalty by paying a bit extra when he will be worth less (not worthless), as they have gotten away with paying him next to nothing while his value is high and still rising. i kind of feel bad for longoria, who should have been able to make close to $250mil in his career, although its tough to cry for someone who will make over $100mil in a state with no state income tax.

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  4. Julian says:

    That’s one hell of a Black Friday deal Longoria gave the Rays

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  5. Jim says:

    The Tampa Bay Lightning sign Longoria to a 10 year deal. Oh wait, this isn’t the NHL?

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  6. J6takish says:

    This is essentially the same deal that Ryan Zimmerman got and that deal was torn apart. Were the Nats ahead of the curve?

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  7. Rickettsia says:

    This raises a question. I assume that Longoria’s deal, while a risk, is definitely a discount for the Rays compared to what he, Braun and Tulo would have made if they went to market.

    So why is it that the Giants are paying what seems to be market rates for their top two starters? Longoria is invaluable to a pitching-first team, but the Giants can survive without an ace starter and even received negative value from Tim Lincecum last year. Reports seem to suggest payroll is only going to increase relative to the inflated salaries for their own FAs.

    Did San Francisco get screwed by signing their TV contract early?

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    • Kellin says:

      The Giants didn’t “sign their TV deal too early” they’re one of the teams that owns a stake in the RSN that broadcasts their games. They’re either 30 or 33% owners of CSN BayArea and receive an ownership share of the channel’s profits rather than selling their broadcasting rights for a stipulated annual amount. Due to their tight-lipped nature, we have no idea what they receive from CSN.

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    • Jason says:

      Who are you considering their top two starters? Lincecum went year to year in arbitration and Cain was only a year away from free agency, so they are not comps to Longoria. Bumgarner’s extension is a better comparison and by a $/WAR basis should give the Giant’s surplus value over the life of the contract. When we see what Grenke goes for I think we’ll still think the Giant’s got a bargain on Cain by striking before he hit the market.

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      • Harold Hatford says:

        The user is asking why the Giants are paying near-market rates for their homegrown stars, while Longoria’s contract will provide some cost savings to the Rays, so there is an invitation for contrast. Why was Longoria able to get a long term extension? Or perhaps the easier question is, why was he willing to sign long term in Tampa Bay, knowing the potential payday he could recieve in free agency?

        The obvious reason is the Rays are contending, but so are the Giants. We can assume that Longoria and Cain/Lincecum don’t hate their respective cities, either. So the contract situation goes down to the team’s willingness to offer one.

        With the collossal busts of the Aaron Rowand and Barry Zito contracts, SFG (perhaps through finacial necessity) peddled with short term contracts or arbitration, as Jason pointed out. As their starters continued to perform in the top 10% of MLB, their prices went up and could not go down, and even resorting to arbitration SFG wouldn’t be able to win a hearing that a player should be paid less than the previous year. Longoria was under contract during all that time, and was never given the opportunity for refinance himself relative to similarly productive players.

        Matt Cain had 100% leverage in his contract negotiations, since the demand for starting pitching of his caliber is so high. He didn’t get paid market rate…had he gone to free agency, his extension’s value would likely have been dwarfed. At that, the first extension Cain signed was considered undervalued, althogh the savings pales compared to SFG’s current expenditure.

        With the ComCast revenue, I don’t think Cain or Lincecum’s salaries are going to restrict the Giants ability to extend players or sign free agents. The limiting factor is more likely to be front office culture or ownership, given the organization’s poor track record with expensive free agents not named Bonds. I would suspect free agents don’t apprciate SFG’s timidness either, if they were more aggressive the team could be used as leverage to find a more lucrative contract.

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      • Jason says:

        I see it less as a issue of front office culture and more about risk tolerance.

        The Giants prefer shorter deals that shift the risk to the player, and are willing to pay higher AAV as a result.

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  8. Radivel says:

    Paging Mr. David Wright, please come to the table, it is now your turn.

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  9. Baltar says:

    I am celebrating by listening to Handel’s Messiah.

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  10. chuckb says:

    Dave, I’m wondering if you now have a different opinion of the Tulowitzki and/or Braun deals in light of the fact that baseball revenues seem to be higher than we thought a year ago?

    What about Mark Shapiro’s claim that they calculate a win to be worth $8 M? Still think that’s too high? (I’m asking with no snark intended.)

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  11. Bookbook says:

    Yep. The Rays should give him a small ownership stake as a thank you. Actually, I’m surprised teams don’t do a bit of that…

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    • Anon21 says:

      I think the Commish has vetoed such terms, because they could cause problems if the player was traded later. (It’s basically like a continual small bet on an opponent.)

      I know this was discussed on Fangraphs at some point, but I can’t find the article—in any event, the solution floated there was to force a buyout of the ownership stake in the event of a trade.

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  12. Hurtlockertwo says:

    The Rays got a good deal and Longoria still gets to win the lottery every year, it’s all good.

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  13. Marver says:

    “Instead of inflation causing everyone to rush towards giant free agent paydays, teams are now keeping their stars from ever having the chance to leave. It’s good for the organizations, good for the players, and great for the game as a whole.”

    Unless, of course, you’re on the San Diego Padres. In that case, full steam ahead with dumping your elite talent. Chase Headley’s next.

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    • Jason says:

      well you still gotta be mindful of where you are on the win curve. Cincinati and TB are competitive now. When the Padres’ next wave of prospects matures into productive big leaguers we’ll have a better idea of how much value they place on retaining their own home grown stars.

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      • Marver says:

        We just had a wave of players mature into stars: Jake Peavy, Adrian Gonzalez, Mat Latos, Chase Headley. One was extended before the 2008 season and gone before the end of 2009; one was traded just prior to reaching free agency; one was traded with several years left prior to free agency; one will (presumably) be traded.

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    • Hurtlockertwo says:

      But you have that mostly empty shiny nice PETCO field to keep your spirits up. They have to put a good team in there too???

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    • MadMonk says:

      Trading Mat Latos for 4 ML ready players was a shrewdly good move. The Padres should do that trade everytime. Adrian Gonzalez wasn’t a homegrown player, he came in that lopsided trade with the Rangers, and the Padres ended up getting his highest production so far for little cost. There’s no reason for the Padres to pay a player more than 25% of the team’s budget when the team isn’t ready to win.

      I think the Padres are going for it in 2013-2014, so Headley may stick around. However, I don’t see how the Padres are going to win with the current starting pitching staff.

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  14. Scraps says:

    It’s good for the organizations, good for the players, and great for the game as a whole.

    And most of all, we’ll get to hear the smug Yankee fans, every time some other team’s fans gets excited about their homegrown young star airily declare that we’ll see them in Yankee pinstripes soon, shut up.

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  15. Phantom Stranger says:

    An unnecessary extension by the Rays trying to lock up Longoria’s latter years, before the coming market inflation. It only makes sense if you believe MLB contracts will go into hyper-inflation because of the new TV money the teams are coming into now. Sure, on a WAR/$ the deal will turn out okay, but the Rays need to beat the market to win against the rich teams in the division on a consistent basis, not match it.

    It almost feels like a minor payback by the Rays to Longoria, for robbing him blind during his pre-arb contract. I would have waited to see if Longoria could play one full season again of 155 games at a premier level before giving him over $100 million.

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    • MikeS says:

      I wish some one would rob me blind like that.

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      • Cidron says:

        I assume you say that because you have similar talent, work ethic, and other qualities he has, and that you are merely overlooked, right?

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    • Mike says:

      Agreed. To praise this contract because it’s less costly than the absurd deals handed out to Prince Fielder, Albert Pujols, and Joey Votto…well, it seems like praising CitiBank for having fewer credit default swaps than AIG in 2008, or some other crazy thing like that.

      No team has any rational business signing a player for 10 years. Historically, these deals almost never work out for the teams signing them; even those deals where the team breaks even on the $/WAR scale usually wind up being horribly lopsided (see Todd Helton, for example). Sure, $16 million may be the market rate for 2 WAR by 2020, but still, the Rays won the lottery with Longoria’s first contract, and they just gave all that house money back.

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  16. Joe says:

    Remember than in addition to anything on the field, there is a component to this that is also a PR move. As a Tampa Bay resident, we have seen the constant departure of homegrown talent, and it starts to undermines the product the Rays put on the field. More so than anything, I think this is a commitment to fans and the market.

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    • Jonathan says:

      There has to be something said of the fact Longoria’s about the first Tampa Bay player ever to have a shot at the HoF.

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    • Cidron says:

      That is true. Do remember that the other florida team has a long habit of sending away its stars (homegrown or not) right after success. Tampa has had success these last few years. Locking up the team stars may show Florida residents a commitment. Thanks to Miami, getting that stadium deal is harder. Tampa has to try harder now, to get it. Signing Longo, showing commitment to him (and presumably the area) is a start.

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  17. ron says:

    This looks like a bargain for the Rays and but potentially this makes trading him difficult at the time his skills start to decline, if they decline before he reaches ten years MLB service time. The bigger problem is if this TV bubble bursts. Nothing stays forever and the high TV dollars seem to be a product of the decline of people watching TV on TV and at regular times. We as fans want more options to watch our teams and don’t want to pay a ton to get it (that’s why mlb.tv is so successful) but yet the TV money is so high because of the restrictions. To assume that TV money is going to continue to skyrocket is dangerous. At some point this is going to burst.

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  18. Grady says:

    Dave–

    What is your prediction for the cost of 1 WAR (FA) over each of the next three years?

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  19. Bip says:

    I’ve wondered before if Longoria has ever felt bitter about how little he has been paid while other players (often inferior ones) get paid around $20 million a year. This seems to suggest that if he is bitter, at least he doesn’t have any grudges against the Rays.

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    • JayT says:

      I don’t see any reason he should feel bitter. He traded huge payout/huge risk for big payout/zero risk the first time, and now it kind of seems like he’s doing the same thing again.
      I think he’s probably just a risk-adverse guy, and he probably likes playing for the Rays.

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    • Cidron says:

      “Oh woe is me ! I get to get paid decently to play a ‘game’ while others ‘work’ for minimum wage ! ” Yeah, I see him feelin bitter there. He gets to play a game, travel about north america, visit its cities, experience the cultural differences/diversity, and still get paid decently.. Not among the rich, but look at the perks that a mlb player gets. And its not like he doesnt get money from endorsements and appearances either.. He managed somehow these last few. And, with a smile on his face.

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  20. SAS says:

    By my count, working off of the Cot’s website, here’s what the players mentioned are getting over their two contracts from their respective teams:

    Votto: 13 years/263M = 20.2M per year.
    Tulo: 13 years/163M = 12.5M per year.
    Braun: 13 years/150M = 11.5M per year.
    Longo: 12 years/117.5M = 9.8M per year.

    Votto’s contract is in an entirely different ballpark from the other three, and would seem to suggest that the Reds either overpaid or that the other three players didn’t maximize their earnings value.

    Also, Longoria seems to be leaving an awful lot of money on the table. I wonder if that’s due to his injury risk, or his love of Tampa, or the state tax issue, but it seems like the Rays are continuing to get a significant break from their star.

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  21. Tom says:

    Last year 1 win =4.5mil. Assuming 5% inflation, compounding that through 2022 yields 7.3mil

    Or in Dave speak :”even if we assume just 5% inflation it will be in the 8-10mil range”

    I get you are on the inflation bandwagon (for the 3rd offseason in a row), but do you have to shade things that would take 30 sec to do the actual math on?

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  22. Skip says:

    Three playoff appearances, no rings. Hasn’t gotten it done, plain and simple. If Rays are going to spend big $$ on a “star” with zero proven clutch gene, they should supplement it with a contract for an Eckstein or Scutaro type with big-game ability

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  23. CJ says:

    I can’t help but think that this trend of resigning young stars is going too far in the opposite direction from a baseball perspective. It might have value to the fans, I don’t know.

    I would just have let Longoria play out his stupidly good contract and waved goodbye at the end (possibly trading him in the last year if my team was bad), mostly for the injury-prone, defense-plus nature of his play.

    Here’s a simple question: how much would Longoria sign for as a free agent right now over the appropriate number of years?

    This deal had better cost less than that by an amount equal to the amount of surplus the Rays could get by not extending him. And really, that “equal” should be “less than”, because this extension option is WAY riskier than going year-to-year. Firstly, it goes for many more years, secondly, because many more of those years are now guarantees.

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  24. MrKnowNothing says:

    Would be kinda funny if this generation’s Billy Beane also ended up getting burned on a 3B contract.

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  25. Patrick says:

    I am not as convinced as most of the other posters here that Longoria’s age 31 through 36 seasons will really be worth $100 million, but I do think this was a necessary move.

    While the Rays aren’t likely to compete with the big boys in attendance — they don’t have the compact market served by an effective infrastructure of say the Red Sox — there is no reason for them not to be raking in big time TV and merchandising revenues. The central Florida market is huge — their regional market is significantly larger than a lot of teams, including the Red Sox.

    It is cache and simplistic to believe that teams like the Yankees and Red Sox are good because they are rich. While this is true, it is equally true that these teams are rich because they are good, and more importantly, because they have created the expectation that they will win. Fans of both these teams will suffer down years, because they have come to believe that their teams will do what it takes to put a quality product on the field more often than not (even if that means operating at a loss every so often).

    The Rays, despite having been quite good the last five years, have not created this expectation, and may in fact, even while making intelligent baseball moves, done much to undermine it. Trading Scott Kazmir at the trade deadline in 2009 and trading Matt Garza prior to the 2011 season may have been defensible baseball moves, but they may also have been bad marketing moves — white flag moves that signalled the franchise wasn’t serious about competing with the Yankees and Red Sox.

    This is related to a larger question I have: Is it better for a team to try to compete every year even if that means having less chance of actually winning a championship (e.g. the Red Sox) or is it better to accept losing seasons in order to accumulate talent for the occasional dominant team (e.g. the Marlins who have won two championships)? Does consistently good, even if it doesn’t produce championships, generate more fan loyalty (and revenue) than a feast or famine strategy (which might produce more championships). My guess, and it’s just a guessm is that it does, and I think signing Longoria is step in that direction for the Rays.

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