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More Than Longoria

Since his debut in 2008, Evan Longoria has been one of the most valuable players in baseball according to Wins Above Replacement. Even scarier: Evan Longoria is only 25. But the main reason he’s most likely going to be at the top of Trade Value Leaderboard again this season is his ridiculous contract. The contract has been discussed many times, so I’ll just list the years and payouts of his contract as reported at Cot’s (in millions of dollars): 2008: $0.5, 2009: $0.55, 2010: $0.95, 2011: $2, 2012: $4.5, 2013: $6, 2014: $7.5 club option ($3 buyout), 2015: $11M club option, 2016: $11.5M club option.

There is no need to repeat how incredible the contract is for the team, the circumstances under which it was signed, or the effect it might have had on agent malpractice insurance premiums. It is generally understood that when pre-arbitration players get “locked up,” the contracts are almost always favorable to the team. Such players will be paid far less than less-talented, older players on the free agent market. However, for a different perspective on how much value this contract gives Longoria, let’s take a look at some of the lesser free agents of 2011 who will be getting paid more than Longoria in the coming season, while giving readers a chance to weigh in on how they are likely to perform.

It isn’t not a revelation that the big name free agents like Carl Crawford, Cliff Lee, Adrian Beltre, Adam Dunn, and the like are going to make so much more than Evan Longoria next season. Even for lesser veterans like Lance Berkman, Paul Konerko, Carl Pavano, and Aubrey Huff it isn’t a huge surprise. That’s just how the system works. To put the Longoria contract in perspective, let’s take a look at some of the lesser offseason signings that guarantee the player more in 2011 than Longoria’s $2 million salary. All values are as listed by Cot’s unless otherwise noted.

For example, Jim Thome was a huge bargain for the Twins last season, and he’s a really nice deal at $3 million guaranteed, but no one thinks he’s in Longoria’s class as a player. Adam LaRoche managed to parlay his consistent adequacy into a $7 million 2011 paycheck, the same amount the Enigmatic Javier Vazquez will make in coming off of his disastrous 2010. Fellow “third baseman” Edwin Encarnacion is guaranteed $2.5 million including his buyout, and Bill Hall will get more from the Astros in 2011 than Longoria, too. The Tigers’ All-Mediocre left side of the infield, Jhonny Peralta and Brandon Inge, will each make more than twice what Evan will in 2011. Zombie Edgar Renteria just edges Longoria out at $2.1 million for 2011. Heck, Ty Wigginton will get $4 million this season to come off the bench for the Rockies.

Speaking of former Tampa Bay players, some of Evan’s former teammates other than the Amazing Carl Crawford did pretty well for themselves on the free agent market. There’s the ridiculous Rafael Soriano deal, of course, but Carlos Pena showed that he may indeed be the Smartest Man in Baseball by getting $10 million guaranteed coming off one of his worst seasons in years. Grant Balfour will be making more than Longoria in 2011, too, as he comes out of the bullpen for Oakland. Potential one-year wonder Joaquin Benoit will make $5.5 million a year for the next three years.

Some of the newest Rays should probably look into buying dinner for Longoria every once in a while, too. Sure, Manny Ramirez is only making the same $2 million in 2011, but Johnny Damon is making more than twice that. But hey, if Manny and Evan ever find themselves in a tight spot, they can always borrow cash from your hero and mine: Kyle ‘Pr0f3550r’ Farnsworth ($2.7 million guaranteed, plus a $0.55 million buyout on his 2012 club option).

…and speaking of relievers, it has been noted that Longoria is going to be paid like a middle reliever for the prime years of his contract. In 2011, he’ll wish that were the case. Soriano and Benoit were just the bookend of the rash of three-year deals given out to relievers this offseason. Jesse Crain will make twice Longoria’s salary in the first season of his three-years with the White Sox. Scott Downs will make even more than that with the Angels. Matt Guerrier might be making more than Longoria in 2011: he is guaranteed $12 million for his three-year contract with the Dodgers, but although he only gets a paycheck of $1.5 in 2011, his $3 million signing bonus is paid out in four installments through 2014 (that’s right, after his contract is over), so who knows? It wasn’t just the three-year deals, either: Pedro Feliciano is averaging $4 million over the next two years, and J.J. Putz will get that amount in 2011. Brian Fuentes will make $5 million in 2011. Jose Contreras remembers when Abner Doubleday invented baseball, and he’ll be making $2.5 million in 2011. Despite his ERA disaster in 2011, even Chad Qualls will make over two million dollars in 2011 if his club option for 2012 doesn’t get picked up. I’m always interested in how fans project relievers (typically the most neglected projections), but however it goes, these deals should put into perspective how incredible the Longoria contract is for Tampa Bay.

It isn’t all bad. Longoria stands to make just as much as Jeff Francis and Bruce Chen in 2011… provided they don’t meet any of their incentives. Hey, at least Evan is guaranteed more from the Rays than Melky Cabrera or Willie Bloomquist. That’s nice, since they both made considerably more in 2010 than Longoria’s $0.95 million salary.

There are many others, but you get the idea. I feel pretty comfortable saying that Longoria is considerably more valuable than any of these players, but it will be interesting to get fan projections of them (especially the relievers) to see just how much.

Oh, yeah, one last player who is has a higher 2011 guarantee than Evan Longoria: this guy.

What do you think? Click here to enter your 2011 projections for some of the mentioned players.